Human Trafficking: The ‘Dark Side’ of the Super Bowl

Post by Lauren’s Kids contributor Jonathan Skurowitz

When the Super Bowl comes around each year on the first Sunday of February, fans everywhere are excited for the game, the commercials and the food. But most people don’t know that the Super Bowl has a dark side. Sex trafficking has become a major issue during the week of the Super Bowl.

According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010, and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl. This year, New Jersey hosts the big game…and the big problem.

“New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who co-chairs 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.”

An investigation done by the United States Department of Justice revealed that, from 2008 through 2010, 40 percent of human trafficking involved child sexual exploitation and child prostitution. More than 2 million children are exploited via commercial sex trade deals each year. And this number is only increasing.

Major sporting events, namely the Super Bowl, are becoming an increasingly popular venue for sexual predators to target victims, and for sex traffickers to make millions. Although the majority of victims are women and girls, recent statistics reveal a substantial increase in the percentage of men and boys who fall victim to this heinous crime.

So what is being done to prevent sex trafficking during the Super Bowl? To learn more, we talked with Detective Nicholas Masters from the Broward County Sheriffs Office (BSO) Strategic Investigations Division, Human Trafficking Department, about tactics being used to curb human trafficking in the Sunshine State.

Lauren’s Kids: What has been your experience with human/sex trafficking here in Florida?

Detective Masters: I have investigated Human Trafficking / Sex Trafficking Cases for the past 5 years, presented at the 2010 FBI Innocence Lost National Initiative Training Conference, and spoken at other various events pertaining to Sex Trafficking.  I have also organized and participated in several large scale operations throughout Broward and Miami Dade County targeting Sex Trafficking with the FBI Minor vice Task Force

Lauren’s Kids: What has been the biggest road block in preventing human/sex trafficking?

Detective Masters: The underground nature of those involved in the selling and buying of sex and the reluctance of victims to come forward and/or cooperate with law enforcement.

Lauren’s Kids: How can we lower the amount of sex trafficking during Super bowl weekend

Detective Masters: Through large scale operations targeting the traffickers and those seeking to buy sex, coupled with community outreach.

Lauren’s Kids: How can we make the public aware of how big of an issue sex trafficking has become?

Detective Masters: Through community outreach offered by the numerous Non-Government Organizations along with educating front line medical staff and hotel employees of indicators to look for.

Lauren’s Kids: Besides the Super bowl when our other circumstances (times/events) of sex trafficking is at large?

Detective Masters: Any major sporting events (NBA Playoffs, NCAA Tournament, MLB Playoffs etc.), Boat Shows, South Florida also gets busy in the Winter months when our weather is still warm.

Lauren’s Kids: What has been your biggest “shut down” of a sex trafficking operation here in Florida?

Detective Masters:  Two come to mind:

June 2009 a Broward Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Investigation in Lauderdale Lakes led to a 1 year joint investigation with BSO and the FBI into a club promotion group who was engaged in the sex trafficking of minors.  The investigation resulted in the recovery of seven (7) juveniles and the indictment and conviction of five (5) defendants for Federal Sex Trafficking Charges.

May 2011 BSO ICAC and FBI MVTF conducted a “raid style” operation named “Boom Boom Room” in Oakland Park.  This investigation resulted in the recovery of eight (8) children and three federal indictments.  The main suspect, James Mozie was sentenced to Life after being convicted.

This year, as you’re getting ready for the big game, consider the ‘dark side’ of the Super Bowl and the part you can play in bringing an end to human trafficking. Have a tip for law enforcement? Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-866-347-2423.