Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on New Jersey for the Super Bowl, set for Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Officials have poured countless hours into preparations for the week of festivities leading up to the big event, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to ready the area for such a massive undertaking. You can guarantee traffic will be awful, New Yorkers will terrify the tourists and the weather … well, good luck to those sitting outside on game day.
New Jersey officials are, however, ready to face one under-the-radar Super Bowl issue head on – human trafficking.
More than 27 million men, women and children are victims of human trafficking, the fastest-growing and second largest criminal industry in the world. Between 100,000 and 300,000 U.S. children are victims of commercial sex trafficking each year, according to the U.S. State Department. And during big events like the Super Bowl, activity spikes as traffickers looking to turn a profit flood host cities with victims.
Indiana recognized the potential for trafficking early in its preparations for the 2012 game and responded with a massive effort to curb the activity through the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force. Nearly 3,400 people received human trafficking training prior to the game, and thousands of materials bearing awareness messages, including shoe cards with hotline numbers, posters, brochures and even soaps and lip balms, were distributed. The campaign, known as “Don’t Buy the Lie,” involved hundreds of volunteers from local churches and colleges, as well as radio and TV interviews, billboards and print advertising. The state also enacted legislative changes that made it easier to prosecute traffickers.
The efforts resulted in 68 commercial sex arrests, the identification and recovery of two human trafficking victims and an ongoing investigation seeking additional victims. It was a big win in the fight to quell one of the deepest forms of human cruelty.