Florida’s top prosecutor is warning the public about human trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl.
It is America’s biggest sporting event, the commercials, the halftime show and the game itself, but law enforcement officers say with any large scale event comes the potential for illegal activity.
Attorney General Ashley Moody is partnering with businesses including a ride-sharing app to crackdown.
“With entertainment events such as the Super Bowl, there is an increase in human trafficking,” Moody said.
In the week leading up to last year’s Super Bowl in Miami, authorities arrested 44 people and rescued 22 victims of human trafficking, according to Moody.
At this year’s Super Bowl in Tampa, authorities are preparing for more arrests.
“This is what we’re trying to stop and we have been fighting against very hard here in Florida,” Moody said.
Moody said her office is now partnering with Uber, teaching thousands of drivers how to spot and report human trafficking while picking up passengers. Because of the pandemic, the training is being done virtually.
Hosting #SuperBowlLV is a huge win for Florida. Sadly, human traffickers will look to exploit the event at the expense of innocent victims.— AG Ashley Moody (@AGAshleyMoody) January 26, 2021
Proud to partner with @Uber ahead of the big game to help educate drivers and riders about how to help us #EndHT.https://t.co/06yUyZkKPu pic.twitter.com/ENdf4X6ggN
Drivers should be on the lookout for people who appear afraid, anxious or paranoid, or someone with physical injuries like burns or branding. Someone who speaks as if they’re being coached is also a red flag, according to experts.
Law enforcement officers say one of the key components to cracking down on human trafficking long term is having the public be able to spot the signs.
“OPD has been pushing if you see something say something. If you see something do something,” said Orlando Police Sgt. Brad Bakeman, who is assigned to the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.
Bakeman is also the chair of the Central Florida Task Force on Human Trafficking.
Law enforcement also works with the hospitality industry, like hotel employees, about how to spot trafficking, according to Bakeman.
“Some of the big things are going to nice hotels paying with cash,” Bakeman said. “Cash deposits, they will have an older gentleman with two young girls, three young girls with them.”
The increased attention around the Super Bowl is good, according to Megan Cutter the Director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, but should last year-round.
“Human trafficking is a problem 365 days a year, not just around the Super Bowl,” she said.
In 2019, the hotline handled 11,500 cases of human trafficking, according to Cutter.
“It’s important to recognize that this problem is much broader and much bigger and much more systemic than a large sporting event that happens once a year,” Cutter said.
If you suspect human trafficking Sgt. Bakeman says you should call 9-1-1 if someone is in immediate danger.
You can also call the human trafficking hotline at (888) 373-7888.