As worldwide attention shifts to Super Bowl LV, efforts are ramping up to prevent the human trafficking that is often associated with major sporting events.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is working with Uber to provide human trafficking prevention education ahead of the game, which is being held this year on Feb. 7 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
“Hosting the Super Bowl in Florida for the second year in a row is a huge win for our state’s economy and tourism, but as we learned from Super Bowl LIV, traffickers will look to exploit this event to advance illegal enterprises at the expense of innocent victims,” Moody said, in a report posted on her website.
Her office has been involved in Uber’s effort to educate thousands of drivers and customers through educational videos about human trafficking.
The idea is to help them better understand the crime of human trafficking, how it presents itself in our communities and what to do when they suspect someone is being trafficked, the website says.
During the week leading up to the 2020 Super Bowl, law enforcement reportedly made 47 arrests related to human trafficking, leading to the rescue of 22 victims, the website adds.
In Hillsborough County, about three dozen adult entertainment businesses were inspected on Jan. 28, to ensure compliance with the county’s human trafficking ordinance, according to a county news release.
County code enforcement officers, City of Tampa Neighborhood Enforcement, and the Tampa Police Department made the inspections, which resulted in citations issued to two businesses found in non-compliance. The citations carry a fine of $265, the release said. Inspection efforts are ongoing.
Hillsborough County’s ordinance requires strip clubs, adult bookstores and theaters, cabarets and other adult entertainment businesses to post signage that provides information about human trafficking to employees, patrons and others. The signage includes details on how to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center if they or someone they know is a victim of human trafficking.
The signage must be conspicuously posted near the front entrance, and in bathroom stalls and changing rooms, and written in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.
These efforts are in addition to other ongoing efforts to reduce human trafficking.
In January 2020, the Department of Justice awarded a $741,556 grant to the St. Petersburg Police Department for three years to create a regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force. The task force is a collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, working with organizations that provide services to victims of human trafficking.
State, federal and regional agencies are among the 23 agencies on the task force, including the Hillsborough and Pasco sheriff’s offices and the Tampa, Dade City and Zephyrhills police departments.
The task force focuses on education, rescue and enforcement.
Local governments also have backed efforts to prevent human trafficking and to raise public awareness about the issue, with county boards in Pasco and Hillsborough counties declaring January as human trafficking awareness month.
Natalie Kehn, director of outreach for the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, works to cast a spotlight on the problem, to promote education and prevention efforts and to seek help for people who have been victimized by the crime.
Kehn spoke at a virtual meeting of WOW-Women of Wesley Chapel, in November.
“Our goal is to end trafficking and protect children,” Kehn said.
She gave a big picture look at the problem, and also offered some practical advice.
There’s an estimated 40.3 million children worldwide that are caught up in the cycle of human trafficking, she said.
Between 100,000 to 300,000 sex-trafficking victims in the United States alone are under the age of 18, she added.
People often have misconceptions about how victims get caught up in trafficking, Kehn said.
“Luring and recruiting is the No. 1 way that happens in the U.S.; it isn’t kidnapping,” she explained.
And, it can happen close to home.
“Know your child’s friends. Know your grandchildren’s friends. Pay attention. We know that 53% of minor girls that were recruited, were recruited by another girl that was involved in trafficking. Not by an adult. Not by that creepy guy — that a lot of us think are the ones we need to watch out for,” Kehn said.
People also have a tendency to think that this is a problem that happens somewhere else, not in their community, she said. But she added, this, too, is an inaccurate perception.
In Pasco County, Kehn said, “we did a study over a 60-day period, where we just chose two websites to look at the sex ads. We found that there were 32 ads of buying and selling just over two websites, in just 60 days, so it is really happening here.”
She also noted that the Super Bowl is coming up, and historically, “there’s been a lot of trafficking around that.”
Kehn continued: “There are two primary factors driving the spread of human trafficking: the high profits and the low risks.
“The problem lies in the demand to purchase a human being for sex. Because the demand exists, the traffickers are filling an economic equation and filling that supply with victims,” she said.
Some red flags of human trafficking
- Appears scared or nervous, may not make eye contact
- No knowledge about where they are and why
- Typically has someone with them at all times; this person may seem controlling.
- Carries multiple hotel keys
- Signs of branding (tattoos, jewelry)
- Physical injuries or signs of abuse
- Has no personal items (cellphone, ID, passport)
- Not allowed to freely leave work or residence
- Lies about age/false identification and/or inconsistencies
- No private space available for victim
If you encounter or suspect someone to be a victim of trafficking, contact local law enforcement immediately and report the incident to the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888. To learn more about how to spot and report human trafficking, visit YouCanStopHT.com.
Published February 03, 2021
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