EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As Sunday marks Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, New Jersey, one of the largest sports weekends of the year, some are warning that the event will also ring in the largest weekend for sex trafficking.
“This industry preys on the vulnerable and booms when hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to a city for major sporting events,” David Batsone of Not for Sale explained to FOX 11.“Traffickers and pimps take advantage of the opportunity and often recruit and force young girls into the trade. Many are coerced, come from vulnerable backgrounds and could be giving a large percentage back to their pimps who control them.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott likewise said regarding the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas that the event was “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Human trafficking is estimated at being a $32 billion dollar per year industry globally, and a $9.5 billion dollar industry just in the United States alone. According to the Blue Campaign, a program launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.”
Up to 400,000 children are estimated as being affected by sex trafficking in the U.S. every year, with 13 being the average victim age.
“Any type of major sporting event or major convention, homecomings, any major event where there is going to be a lot of men, a lot of money, a lot of alcohol, there is going to be an increase in demand for commercial sex, which leads to more sex trafficking,” Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Girls, told ABC News.
The outlet reports that prostitution ads increased by 50 percent on the internet last past weekend, and were expected to grow as the Super Bowl drew nearer. In 2010, an estimated 10,000 prostitutes were transported to Miami, Florida for the the Super Bowl, and 133 minors were arrested in 2011 in Dallas for likewise engaging in prostitution surrounding the game.
Therefore, this year, billboards have been launched in Times Square to help raise awareness surrounding human trafficking in the nation. The digital campaigns, sponsored by the Polaris Project and Clear Channel Outdoor, declare simple messages such as “Human trafficking was reported in all 50 states last year.”
“This was too golden an opportunity to raise awareness about human trafficking,” Suzanne Grimes, president of Clear Channel Outdoor North America, told Forbes this week. “It would have been irresponsible if we hadn’t seized this opportunity.”
The South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has also launched an awareness campaign, asking passengers on its bus and rail lines to be on the lookout for those pimps and prostitutes who might seek to prey on the young.
“We’re trying to look for that predator that’s preying on the vulnerable,” SEPTA police chief Tom Nestel told reporters. “We’re looking for people who are talking to young women—young women who are by themselves and seem maybe apprehensive about the conversation.”
Reports state that police have been extra vigilant this year to enforce its laws surrounding prostitution. Nearly 300 arrests were made through January 26th over illegal sexual activity—a 30 percent jump in arrests over last year.