Law enforcement agents in New Jersey have redoubled efforts to fight what they worry could be one of the biggest menaces to come with next month’s Super Bowl: sex trafficking. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on New Jersey for the February 2 football game. Many believe the state’s sprawling highway system, proximity to New York City and diverse population make it an attractive base of operations for traffickers.
“New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus. “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.”
Soon after the announcement that the 2014 Super Bowl would be held at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey officials set up training for legions of law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of sex trafficking. Local houses of worship are handing out fliers notifying congregants of warning signs, and truckers are being trained to look for people — mostly women but also men — who may be held against their will. Officials are also warning the public to watch for people who are forced into labor and individual pimps exerting control over young women and men who are oftentimes underage.
“We’ve enlisted, basically, every service provider that people coming to the Super Bowl are going to run into,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “There are a lot of eyes that are going to be on their activities and going to be on spotting potential victims of this crime.”
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said ads are starting to pop up on Internet sites and law enforcement officials are gleaning information from them. “When you’re about ready to have 400,000 men come to this area of the country,” Molinelli said, “you’re invariably going to have more people try to take advantage of that by providing prostitutes and prostitution.”
The National Football League said it shares law enforcement concerns and supports strong anti-human trafficking laws. “We work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to ensure that the Super Bowl is a safe environment for the host community and the fans who enjoy the game and the celebration,” NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
Jane Wells, a filmmaker who recently released “Tricked,” a documentary about human trafficking, said she wants law enforcement to focus on the crime all the time, not just around sporting events.
“This is a 365-day-a-year problem,” Wells said.
Learn more at Katie Zezima’s and Samantha Henry’s ABC News article: NJ Works to Curb Sex Trafficking Before Super Bowl.