Federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be on hand at the Super Bowl in Miami Feb. 2 with the goal of rescuing children and adults who are forced to have sex with tourists in town for the big game. Florida Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez says all year round and especially during the Super Bowl officials are on heightened alert for human trafficking.
“We know that large-scale events such as these are ripe for human traffickers to exploit,” said acting ICE Director Matthew Albence at a press conference in Washington on Thursday. “We will be out in full force.”
ICE and partner law enforcement agencies arrested more than 160 people in the days leading up to and after last year’s National Football League championship game in Atlanta. More than two dozen of those arrested were human traffickers, and 34 had tried to have sex with minors. The agency also rescued two dozen victims. Albence said without ICE, the FBI, and local police, those victims would not have been saved.
“Sometimes people just say human trafficking, and it rolls off the shoulder,” said Albence. “We’re talking about children and women that are being sexually exploited. And when we say rescuing, this may be real, live-time, people being sexually exploited and abused and violated in the most obscene ways possible that our agents are able to go in there, rescue these victims and prosecute these dangerous organizations that are involved in this heinous crime.”
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations arm sends a team to the Super Bowl every year.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Florida ranks third in the U.S. in human trafficking cases reported by states, behind only California and Texas. The hotline received more than 41,000 calls and identified 10,949 victims of human trafficking in 2018 experiencing a 25 percent jump from 2017. In 2019, the Florida Abuse Hotline received 201 calls of suspected human trafficking cases of minors verifying 60 of those cases.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a time to call attention to the growing epidemic here in our community and worldwide. In support of a vision for a community free from human trafficking and to further support awareness, Broward County Commissioners presented a proclamation to the Nancy J. Cotterman Center proclaiming January 2020 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“We encourage individuals to speak up and for all communities to stand up for all victims of human trafficking,” said Carol Cook, Director of Crisis Intervention and Support Division.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery by which traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of others. Under U.S. law human trafficking is defined as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing or obtaining of another person for transport; for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation using force, fraud and/or coercion.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the Nancy J. Cotterman Center at 954-761-7273 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The Nancy J. Cotterman Center is Broward’s only 24/7 Sexual Assault Treatment and Children’s Advocacy Center. Services provided are free and confidential. Visit Broward.org/NancyJCottermanCenter.
Listen to Karen Curtis’ interview with Lt. Governor Jeanette Núñez on human trafficking.