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February 03, 2017

Human Trafficking Doesn’t Just Happen at the Super Bowl

Every year millions of Americans crowd around their TVs for the Super Bowl to cheer on their team, eat hot wings, drink beer, and enjoy a fantastic American tradition. However, major events like the Super Bowl are not all fun and games—they are also peak points of slavery, exploitation, abuse, and vulnerability.

In the lead up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi there were widespread reports of human rights violations in Russia, including trafficking and forced labor in the construction of Olympics infrastructure. In the United States, year after year states’ law enforcement agencies increase patrols and form trafficking task forces in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl in the hopes of combating the expected increased prevalence of this crime.

While well intentioned, these responses do not address the long-term issue—trafficking is problem every day of the year that includes, but is not limited to, Super Bowl Sunday.

Vulnerable people are trafficked and exploited every day in the United States. These people work on farms, in restaurants, in brothels, and people’s homes. They work in every city across this country. While large events, like the Super Bowl, might draw attention to the problem, quick fixes alone will not end the ongoing problem of modern slavery. The task forces and coordinated efforts that cities implement to combat trafficking during the Super Bowl would be more impactful if implemented year-round.

Investigating human trafficking requires long-term coordinated efforts and buy-in from prosecutors, federal and local law enforcement, victims services organizations, and federal agencies. Coordination affords agencies the support they need to actively seek cases, educate themselves and their communities on the signs of trafficking, and pool the skills and access each agency possesses. Areas of the country where these coordinated efforts already exist have already seen a 119 percent increase in the number of trafficking cases filed.

Many of the short-term Super Bowl task forces employ business owners to work closely with local law enforcement to hand out pamphlets at bars and clubs and educate their communities on the signs of trafficking. Our law enforcement, local governments, and business owners should always be engaged in these kinds of efforts. Regular people such as airport employees, teachers, business owners, and truck drivers, to name a few, have a unique opportunity to fight modern slavery.

By forming these Super Bowl task forces, cities are employing all the right tools to combat trafficking. They use education tools and actively investigate potential trafficking cases. With prolonged coordination, these task forces could be more successful and more effective.

First, government agencies should train local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Second, agencies should actively engage communities to recognize the signs of trafficking and reduce impunity for traffickers. And lastly, there should be sustained efforts to allow local groups to partner with other cities to share best practices for investigating, prosecuting, and finding incidences of trafficking.

Our current system allows traffickers to operate with near impunity. To end this, we need to significantly increase the risk to traffickers in every city, every day. Law enforcement should harness the momentum of the Super Bowl to monitor potential trafficking activity year-round. Long-term solutions to all types of trafficking need sustained attention to successfully combat modern slavery. Only then can we begin addressing our real goals—ensuring that victims are rescued and that traffickers are held accountable for their crimes.