Last February, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot shocked Americans when he dubbed the Super Bowl “the single largest human trafficking incident in the U.S.” Now, Arizona activists are acting preemptively to stem trafficking for the large event, which Glendale will host in 2015.
The enormity of the Super Bowl provides an ideal setting for traffickers to maximize profits. In Florida, for instance, “tens of thousands of women and minors” were victimized around Miami in 2009. Due to the influx of sports enthusiasts, there are more opportunities for sex solicitation – which pimps capitalize on. Additionally, the number of escort ads multiply closer to game day.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) approved a special task force this month that, according to the Tucson Sentinel, suggested a number of strategies to address trafficking in Arizona. Led by Cindy McCain, the wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), the task force issued 28 recommendations for reducing sex trafficking in the state. The task force, for instance, recommends increased protections for sex trafficking victims who are minors and the recognition of girls as victims in need of help instead of prostitutes. It suggests changing current state law to treat 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old victims of sex trafficking the same way it treats girls who younger than 15. It also suggests increasing penalties for johns and devoting resources to public awareness campaigns to combat the prevalence of sex trafficking.
Anti-trafficking outreach before the annual event is not unique to the Copper State, and advocacy campaigns have produced tangible results around past editions of the Super Bowl. Activists in New York and New Jersey are bracing for Super Bowl XLVIII – which they’ll host in February at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking has taken several steps to raise awareness about the issue, training hotel managers on how to detect and address trafficking in their establishments, and holding an informational rally replete with “elected officials, community activists, students, [and] artists.” Efforts like those in New Jersey and Arizona are aimed at duplicating past success at Super Bowl host sites. Before Super Bowl XLVI, held in Indianapolis in 2012, efforts from nonprofits and other activist groups helped generate a law making it easier to convict and punish pimps for victimizing people under 16 years of age. Those efforts don’t just fight sex trafficking around the Super Bowl — they also leave in place laws that are effective in limiting the practice long after the game is gone.