Jan 29 2014, 12:47am CST | by Poch de la Rosa
"Beyond the bright lights of this week's Super Bowl parties in New York and New Jersey, sex trafficking will flourish in the shadows, Congress was told Monday.
"'In less than a week, New Jersey will be hosting the Super Bowl, and long with welcoming enthusiastic fans, the state also is preparing for a likely influx of both domestic and international traffickers,' Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) said at a House hearing.
"'We know from the past, any sports venue -- especially the Super Bowl -- acts as a sex-trafficking magnet.'
"Lawmakers and advocacy groups used the three-hour hearing to shine a spotlight on sex trafficking during major national and international sporting events.
"The trafficking is defined as inducing someone to have sex for money through fraud or coercion.
"Smith, co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus, cited numbers from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that claim 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl."
As a way to raise awareness about human trafficking during the Super Bowl, the Polaris Project and Clear Channel Outdoor are putting up digital spots between Herald Square and Times Square -- a stretch otherwise known as "Super Bowl Alley," per J. Max Robbins of Forbes Magazine.
There are also billboards featuring black-and-white photos of human trafficking victims which will be put up in the surrounding area to further intensify the campaign, Robbins notes.
Suzanne Grimes, president of Clear Channel Outdoor North America, told Robbins the Super Bowl is an excellent opportunity to get this important point across to as many people as possible.
"People who are interested in the Super Bowl are a lot more multi-dimensional in what they care and think about than we may give them credit for. This was too golden an opportunity to raise awareness about human trafficking. It would have been irresponsible if we hadn't seized this opportunity."
In a Jan. 18 report. Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today stresses law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups in New York and New Jersey have been preparing for the human trafficking issue during the Super Bowl for more than a year.
Alcindor says,"While people are partying during the game, officials will be running undercover operations monitoring online classifieds and passing out fliers in hopes of thwarting the crimes."
Nita Belles, regional director of Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans, is collaborating with other advocacy groups to organize a program known as "Blitz the Trafficker." Here, Alcindor notes fliers and other pertinent information such as New Jersey trafficking hotlines will be given out during key Super Bowl events.
Belles knows all too well the nature of events such as the Super Bowl can be an environment where human trafficking can eventually thrive in.
"Anytime there is a large event that is primarily male-attended and there's a party atmosphere, that will result in incidents of human trafficking. There is a 'boys will be boys' mentality."
Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri affirms this fact when she spoke with Straw.
"Online customers choose websites like Backpage and other advertisers to order an underage girl to their hotel room as easily as if they were ordering a delivery pizza.
"Now just think about that for a second. Close your eyes and picture your daughter, your niece, or any young girl that you care about being sold for exploitation to a complete stranger."
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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