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Is the Super Bowl Linked to Sex Trafficking?

In a matter of days, the New England Patriots will take on Seattle in Arizona for the NFL championship. While players and fans will be focused on the game, politicians will be considering other issues. In advance of the Super Bowl, law enforcement announces crackdowns on sex trafficking, with the understanding that the major sporting event brings an increase in the crime. 

Last year, Super Bowl XLVIII took place in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In the days leading up to football's biggest game, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced a law enforcement crackdown. Along with Representative Christopher H. Smith, co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus, the Super Bowl was labeled "one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks."

However, there are few statistics to support the contention that the Super Bowl does in fact have a direct correlation to an increase in sex trafficking. Kate Mogulescu, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society in New York, issued an op-ed piece on the topic. According to Mogulescu, there is no substantiation to the claims, and no data to "support the notion that increased sex trafficking accompanies the Super Bowl." Instead, the hype creates bad policy by aggressively targeting prostitution during a short period of time, punishing many of the victims of trafficking.

Whether or not there is proof that sex trafficking increases surrounding the Super Bowl, politicians and law enforcement continue to announce crackdowns. Law enforcement, hospitality workers, and the general public is being told to be on the lookout for signs of sex trafficking, and to notify police if they see suspicious activity. With the coming Super Bowl,Arizona is following suit, touting their anti-sex trafficking moves.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are preparing for a showdown in Phoenix, Arizona. Despite research from Arizona State University which concluded the Super Bowl does not cause a dramatic influx of sex trafficking, the state is announcing timely initiatives. Arizona's recently elected Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Cindy McCain have announced a new billboard campaign to raise awareness of sex trafficking. McCain is active on the issue nationally, and worked with the state's former Governor to increase penalties for sex trafficking. Brnovich has said his office will step up efforts targeting sex trafficking.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the issue goes beyond a law enforcement concern. "Fighting human trafficking is the responsibility of every single person," said Stanton. In support, during the weeks leading up to the city's hosting, as many as 50 billboards in the Phoenix metro area will feature ads to raise awareness of trafficking. According to Bradley Myles, CEO of an anti-sex trafficking group, the problem does exist around the Super Bowl, but is really a year-round problem.

Staca Shehan, with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also cites trafficking as a year-round business for traffickers, with the need for continual awareness. Policy changes will really be a benefit to victims of sex trafficking if they continue after the conclusion of the big game. In such a move, the company donating ad space for the human trafficking campaign in Arizona has said they will support anti-trafficking efforts throughout the year.

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