MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On a Sunday afternoon at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, the talk around a table full of people wasn’t football, but a topic the group felt deserve as much if not more attention.

“It may make people feel uncomfortable to talk about the fact that you 13-year-old girls from Rochester, Minnesota are trafficked but these kinds of things are happening,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who organized the round table discussion on human trafficking.

The fight to stop it took a large step last week when the website Backpage.com suspended its adult services section, an area where people involved in the illegal sex trade often solicited for customers.

But in February 2018, the problem won’t just be hidden online, but rather out in the open in Minneapolis when the city hosts the Super Bowl. Concern over the crime spikes around events involving large amounts of people traveling to a specific town or area.

Terry Williams is the vice president of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and is also the co-chair of the Super Bowl anti-trafficking committee, and helped develop a plan to present to the NFL.  She said about 40 organizations, some of which participated in Sunday’s discussion, were part of it.

The plan to combat the sex trade during the big game includes designing a media campaign. She said that part encompasses, “How do we really use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to educate the general public about the issue?”

Another aspect is helping victims caught in the trade.

“So how do we make sure that if kids are picked up that there will be a place that they can go that they can get the kind of trauma informed care and treatment,” she said.

The committee also wants to properly educate businesses like hotels on human trafficking. Employees need to be trained how to spot it and not just the victims, but the people spending the money that fuels the crime.

“We know that if we don’t start to look at people who are buying sex and how to end that that, we’re not going to really address the problem,” she said.

The fourth and final aspect involves properly coordinating law enforcement and prosecutors to work together during the time the Super Bowl is in town. But as those groups work on the front lines, Sen. Klobuchar hopes people continue the conversation on human trafficking at home in order to raise awareness.

“Whether you’re sitting in a bar talking about it or you’re out in a fish house, the discussion should be ‘Hey, that’s not cool what that guy did. We’re not gonna do that,’” Sen. Klobuchar said. “That’s a different thing than legislating. That’s people talking to their friends and neighbors.”

The committee plans to finalize the proposal and present it to the NFL in the coming months.

Jeff Wagner

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