Human Trafficking and the Super Bowl 2016

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SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI will take a new approach in its efforts to crack down on sex trafficking during the Super Bowl, reaching out to women and girls selling sex in the run-up to the game to give them a way out and get them to turn against their traffickers.

This year’s event at Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area, like other large sporting events, is expected to be a magnet for trafficking in part because many thousands of men will pour into the region, according to experts.

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Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which will host the 2016 Super Bowl; pictured during NFL preseason game on Aug. 17, 2014.
NOAH GRAHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Victims’ advocates and local law enforcement officials say the FBI’s efforts are laudable, but they warn that victims are often too fearful to help prosecute their traffickers.

The new approach will rely on local nonprofit groups to make initial contact with the women and girls before the FBI steps in to provide them with access to its victims’ advocates and other services.

“The goal is to reach anyone who is being trafficked,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Doug Hunt, who manages the San Francisco office’s anti-trafficking efforts, which will also include sting operations the agency has used before previous Super Bowls.

Anti-trafficking advocates say there is no evidence that additional women or girls are forced into prostitution to serve the Super Bowl market. But those already trafficked may be moved to such events as their traffickers see opportunities to make money.

“This is hidden,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University. “The victims, buyers and sellers are all doing this behind a curtain, so it’s difficult to capture what’s happening.”

The FBI and local law enforcement agencies announced the arrests last February of 360 sex buyers and 68 traffickers and the recovery of 30 juvenile victims in a six-month operation in anticipation of the 2015 Super Bowl.

In 2014, the FBI said authorities recovered 16 children between the ages of 13 and 17 and arrested more than 45 pimps and their associates in Super Bowl-related operations.

Additionally, a coalition of law enforcement agencies and victims’ groups under the umbrella “No Traffic Ahead” has been meeting about the Super Bowl since 2014 and, among other efforts, training hospitality workers about how to spot trafficking victims.

By CRIMESIDER STAFF AP January 13, 2016, 8:16 AM

 

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (CBS SF) — The arrival of the Super Bowl to the Bay Area is increasing awareness of human trafficking related to the event.

San Francisco International Airport held training sessions for airline and airport personnel Monday to recognize the signs of human trafficking. The training sessions were the first in a series scheduled for all major Bay Area airports.

In a statement, SFO said the classes were timed to address the potential for trafficking activity related to Super Bowl 50.

ALSO READ: FBI Cracks Down On Super Bowl Sex Trafficking

At SFO Monday, trafficking survivor and American Airlines flight attendant Donna Lynne Hubbard shared with KPIX 5 her story of being a mother of three by the age of 20 “looking for acceptance in all the wrong places.”

“There’s nothing glamorous about waking up in the morning and wishing you didn’t wake up because you know what the rest of the day holds for you,” said Hubbard.

Hubbard said she was trafficked from Atlanta to LA and multiple cities in between. “But when I woke up in a room full of men climbing on top of me one at a time, I realized that nothing is worth selling my soul,” said Hubbard. “But by then, the shame and the guilt was overwhelming.”

Preventing this from happening to anyone else is her mission, especially as the Super Bowl approaches. While there have been many claims about the effect of a Super Bowl on the amount of prostitution in the host city, a 2011 study by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Womenshowed that large sporting events do not cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.

“It would be a misnomer to just say that by having a Super Bowl, it means there’s an automatic increase to trafficking,” said Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition founder Betty Ann Boeving. “It actually is an increase in awareness of the issue.”

Airplanes are an easy way for pimps to traffic people. Signs of trafficking to look can be if someone lacks luggage or personal items, is accompanied by someone far better-dressed, or if they’re fearful ofsecurity personnel.

“So often on the airplane and in the airport, what we see are women who are victims who don’t always understand that they are being victimized or what’s getting ready to happen to them,” said Hubbard.

Airline travelers who suspect someone is being forced against their will and may be a victim of human trafficking are urged to tell a flight attendant or airport authority.

“(We are) trying to send the deterrent message to traffickers that the Bay Area is going to be a very difficult place for them to do business,” said Boving.

by Jackie Ward