NEW YORK — The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reports that officials with the organization, in conjunction with over 50 law enforcement agencies in four states, rescued 16 teens—ages 13 to 17—from a life of sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl.
“High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a news release about the effort. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.”
A number of the teens that were rescued had been reported missing by their families, the organization stated, and the majority of those recovered were girls. A total of 70 people received assistance in the form of food, clothing and shelter from FBI victim specialists over the course of the operation.
In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, law enforcement arrested 45 pimps and their associates throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The FBI says that it had been planning the bust for six months.
“As with Super Bowl security, the collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement in the operations targeting commercial child sex trafficking was unprecedented,” said Aaron T. Ford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. “The FBI and its partners remain committed to the identification and rescue of minor victims and to hold accountable those who exploit children for financial gain.”
“It is the most significant operation we’ve had around a big event,” Michael Osborne of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Unit also told ABC News. “This is the most recoveries we’ve had at one time.”
As previously reported, 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.
Lori Cohen, director of Sanctuary for Families, an organization that assists trafficking victims, told Reuters that she had been told by some of the women that were involved in sex trafficking near the Super Bowl that they had sex with up to 50 men a day.
“Many of the men were setting up football parties where they are drinking, watching football and ordering in prostitutes,” she explained.
But the FBI stresses that sex trafficking—although on the rise during events such as the Super Bowl—is a problem both nationally and internationally year round.
“Through partnerships, enhanced as a result of this operation, we hope to build a lasting framework that helps the community address this problem,” Michael Harpster, chief of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section, stated. “It’s easy to focus on this issue in light of a high-profile event, but the sad reality is, this is a problem we see every day in communities across the country.”
Photo: Baby Knight