With the Twin Cities preparing to host Super Bowl LII, preparation to address any upticks in prostitution or sex trafficking has long been underway. In fact, some have made claims that the Super Bowl is the biggest time for sex trafficking, though a University of Minnesota report noted "the Super Bowl does not appear to have the largest impact" on sex trafficking. According to a report released last year, events like trade shows, holiday weekends, and other sporting events also generate an increase in trafficking.
But with the general public's attention placed on the Super Bowl, those who work to help victims of sex trafficking in Minnesota are seizing the opportunity to get the word out about an issue that persists year-round.
According to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, one of the co-chairs of the Super Bowl Anti-Trafficking Committee, “This problem is in our community 365 days a year, every hour, every minute of every day, and so when the Super Bowl leaves, it is still going to be a problem.”
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans says that law enforcement is planning "targeted operations" around the time of the Super Bowl, and that they want people to know: "If they're coming to Minnesota looking to buy sex, we will be looking for them."
Administrative manager of Hennepin County's No Wrong Door Initiative, Amanda Koonjbeharry, says that when she talks to people in the community about sex trafficking, they are usually "shocked when they hear about it. They don't think that it happens here in their community." St. Paul police Cmdr. Ken Sass says that most people, “have the perception that prostitution is about high-priced call girls, but the realities are it's usually young women who are vulnerable that are being taken advantage of by our own communities."
A study conducted by the University of Minnesota's Urban Research Outreach-Engagement Center and Othayonih Research shows that trafficking victims tend “to be young girls of color from communities characterized by poverty." Many of these vulnerable individuals might have run away from home, have mental health issues or cognitive delays, or might be using drugs or alcohol.
Terry Forliti, executive director of Breaking Free says, “Within the first 36 to 48 hours of running away, they're more likely to be picked up by perpetrators than they are by law enforcement or social services because these perpetrators know where to look."
Planning for the Super Bowl
The Super Bowl Anti-Sex Trafficking Committee began its work about a year and a half ago, and both business leaders and service providers have worked together to help raise public awareness about this campaign. Additionally, committee members have been providing training and information to neighborhood groups around the stadium, though they’re not asking people to intervene if they see a situation that concerns them, they are just asking them to have their eyes open.
While anyone who witnesses an imminent situation is asked to call 911, people can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 to give tips or get help. Although the anti-sex trafficking efforts are focused on the 10 days around the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, public-awareness campaigns will continue to run beyond the event.
Are you or a loved one a survivor of sex-trafficking? Contact our Minneapolis sex crimes attorneystoday to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.