MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Minnesota prepares to host Super Bowl LII in February, advocates for victims of sex trafficking and members of law enforcement are working hard to prevent a spike in the illegal practice.
Beth Holger-Ambrose, executive director at The Link, a non-profit providing services and housing for homeless and sexually-exploited youth, said there are many people working to prevent sex trafficking year-round. But a big event like the Super Bowl allows advocates to educate people who may have misconceptions about the difficult topic.
“The Super Bowl provides an opportunity to build awareness to an audience that we don’t normally get access to about what sex trafficking really is,” Holger-Ambrose said.
Holger-Ambrose said many people do not realize anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking.
“The majority of the youth we see getting recruited into trafficking are getting recruited online by their peers, by family members, by people acting like they’re their boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend,” she said.
Sgt. Grant Snyder of the Minneapolis Police Department’s human trafficking team said with any major event like the Super Bowl, expected to draw an extra one million people to the Twin Cities, criminals who buy and sell people will see extra opportunity.
Snyder said most advertising happens online and on social media.
“Trafficking is a purely demand-driven phenomenon,” Snyder said. “Everyday people can help stop trafficking by helping us create an environment where it is unthinkable for anyone to pay for sex.”
The committee said many people think sex trafficking happens only to people brought in from outside of the country, but it is estimated that 83 percent of trafficking victims inside the country are U.S. citizens.
They are disproportionately more people from the LGBTQ community and people of color.