HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND THE SUPER BOWL
Why is there concern about human trafficking in preparation for Super Bowl 2014?
Human Trafficking is often associated with large sporting events. In preparation for the Super Bowls, law enforcement, attorney generals, the interfaith community, and community advocates have worked together to deter trafficking and to raise awareness about the issue.
The Super Bowl attracts tens of thousands of fans to the host city, and millions of television viewers, making it the most watched broadcast each year. But it also attracts a sector of violence, organized criminal activity that operates in plain sight without notice including Human Trafficking in both the sex and labor industries. Our efforts should not be misconstrued as vilifying the National Football League, but rather acknowledging that unacceptable behavior can and does happen around major sporting events.
Best Practices Implemented To Deter Human Trafficking At Super Bowls
Starting in 2004, statistics began to be collected at international sporting events such as the Olympics, World Cups, and 2011 Super Bowl, and since then efforts to tackle and deter this crime have become a regular part of Super Bowl preparations at the State level. Last year, the Indiana Attorney General published results of anti-trafficking efforts surrounding the 2012 Super Bowl.
In April 2013, the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking looked at best practices. A Summary includes:
Strengthen Law Enforcement & Victim Services
Raise Community Awareness - through outreach, media, and trainings
Engage Civil Society - local and national advocates, community organizations, churches, and colleges
Outreach to groups at risk
Establish protocols within the travel and tourism industry including local hotels
Distribute Victim Recovery Materials
Strengthen laws to facilitate persecuting traffickers and rescuing victims
NJ Coalition Awareness Campaign Leading Up to Super Bowl 2014 in New Jersey:
Outreach to Hotel Managers to Establish Protocols and Train Staff Against Human Trafficking – More than 200 volunteers were trained by the ECPAT-USA, the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, and the Coalition to engage Hotel Managers in anti-trafficking efforts. This included training on November 6, 2013 at Rutgers Law School in Newark.
S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) - The Coalition successfully secured funds from the Community Foundation of NJ to underwrite the costs of bringing the S.O.A.P Project to New Jersey in January 2014. The SOAP will help facilitate the Hotline number to those at-risk and enslaved. Mobilizations will take place on January 25-26.
Not On Our Turf Summit – The Coalition co-sponsored with Project Stay Gold a day-long Summit to provide skills to high school students to form abolitionist clubs in their schools.
Stand Against Human Trafficking – Modeled on a William Paterson University initiative, the Coalition held a day-long Stand Against Human Trafficking rally on the Morristown Green that featured information booths, elected officials, community activists, students, artists, and a petition drive. Colleges around the State are being urged to organize a Stand event.
Local Programs Raising Awareness About Human Trafficking – More than 30 local programs or media programs featuring law enforcement, advocates and survivors have been co-sponsored with the Coalition or featured a Coalition speaker. The Coalition is organizing a state-wide media event for January 8 in Bergen County.
Supporting and partnering with NJ Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force efforts – The Coalition is a member of the Task Force.
Responses to Those who Downplay Concern about Super Bowl
Currently, there are very few ways of collecting statistics on Human Trafficking. However, at the governmental level there is an acknowledgement of the potential increase of Human Trafficking around large sporting events. The last three Governors of States where the Super Bowl has taken place implemented increased training of law enforcement, raised awareness among community members, and reached to at-risk kids during the Super Bowl.
New Jersey’s Attorney General has made anti-Human Trafficking enforcement a priority. They have established a NJ Human Trafficking Task Force which has been working for the past year training law enforcement, working with non-profits, schools, and other civil society and business leaders to ensure that systems are in place to deter trafficking. The goal is to set-up a united front where the traffickers avoid coming to the State, but this does not necessarily correlate with an increase in arrests. Traffickers tend not to come to the host State if they know law enforcement is watching.
New Jersey has one of the newest laws in the country, signed on May 6, 2013, to combat Human Trafficking. New York is also taking this issue seriously and they have established a Human Trafficking special circuit court.
The Super Bowl is also an opportunity to educate the community. People will stop and listen if you mention Super Bowl but not necessarily if you just talk about Human Trafficking. There has also been a number of missing children found each Super Bowl and there are a few evangelical groups, including Free International, that come to the State of the Super Bowl and work with at-risk children and specifically look for those missing and sexually exploited one.
Raising human trafficking awareness is not a one time, one event, cause. Rather, promoting Human Trafficking awareness, especially during a national event such as the Super Bowl, allows for wide-spread community attentiveness to the issue. The problem of Human Trafficking in New Jersey will not end with the Super Bowl. It is the hope that the NJ Coalition’s awareness campaign will help to prevent Human Trafficking in New Jersey and when it does occur, to reach out to victims, providing them with aid and resources.
Organizations that have not done so already, are urged to organize local programming to educate their memberships and networks on their community’s history and involvement in Human Trafficking efforts and what they can do about it.