Super Bowl Anti-Trafficking Report
by Nita Belles
The In Our Backyard team traveled to Phoenix for the 2015 Super Bowl Operation, spending 11 days there working to raise awareness about human trafficking as well as working with law enforcement and local agencies.
In addition to the In Our Backyard team, Grove Church supplied us with 150 volunteers and the Salvation Army also supplied us with some volunteers and together with the help of Bethany Bible Church we were able to do the following:
- We conducted Human Trafficking 101 to empower 150 volunteers to be dispatched in groups of 2-4 to visit a total of 800 convenience stores/gas stations. Our volunteers educated staff about how their locations are sometimes used as drop-off and exchange points for sex trafficking as well as gathering places and sources for food/gas/alcohol and restroom facilities. This approach proved to be very beneficial for our street surveillance teams as well when we revisited these locations in the wee hours.
- Out of 47 missing children for whom we distributed pictures and other information, 15 of these precious kids were recovered (we don't know if our literature resulted in these recoveries, but we rejoice that they were found)!
- 2,500 Missing Kids booklets were distributed.
- 3,000 information brochures were distributed.
- 1,000 flyers from Arizona State University, explaining how to identify a victim of trafficking and what local services are available, were distributed.
- Hearts were changed: I walked by a high-end party and tried to hand a well-dressed bouncer a Missing Kids booklet. He put up his hand as if to say "no thanks!" He was tired of having advertisements handed to him. But when I said "Missing Kids…" his countenance melted and he took the book. I explained that missing children may be brought to the Super Bowl to be trafficked and that 1 in 3 runaway children will be lured by a trafficker within 48 hours. I glanced back as I walked away and saw he was looking through the booklet, shock and sadness evident on his face. Another instance was when I handed a Missing Kids booklet to the man staffing a Super Bowl Central Information booth. He felt moved to get on his radio to their central dispatch to organize the distribution of the books to all their staff at the Super Bowl Central Information booths.
- Partnerships: In addition to the wonderful volunteers, we are grateful for the partnership with the FBI and warmly received their thanks for our work. The FBI reported that during the weeks preceding the Super Bowl their operations netted the following results:
- 26 juvenile victims recovered
- 60 pimps/traffickers arrested
- 350 sex solicitors arrested
The debate will rage on about whether Super Bowl is the largest single human trafficking event, or if there is no increase at large events. The fact remains that victims of human trafficking are being subjected to forms of slavery every day in every nook and cranny in our country and we must all work to stop it 365 days a year.
Nita Belles works with top law enforcement, government officials, social services, and the medical and faith communities to combat human trafficking. The author of In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in American and What We Can Do to Stop It (Baker, 2015), she is a regional director of Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans, overseeing the Central Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force.
Also by Nita Belles:
Easy Pickings (on how poor children from south of our borders are an easy target for sex traffickers)
The Price of Pain (on ministry volunteers and secondary trauma)