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Combating Sex Trafficking During the Super Bowl

November 09, 2017 12:47 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Sex trafficking happens all over the world, including local areas, and when the Super Bowl brings thousands of visitors to Minnesota in February, some experts say sex traffickers will follow.

“It happens in small towns, it happens everywhere,” Albert Lea Police Detective Deb Flatness said. 

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“Our main goal is to get our girls and our victims out of the life,” an undercover officer in southeastern Minnesota said.

The undercover officer said sex trafficking can happen in a number of ways, and at any age. Some kids, girls or boys, can be trafficked as early as 12-years-old.

“They find someone who’s vulnerable and tie them into the trafficker and it kind of goes from there,” Jeannie Thompson with the Rochester Women’s Shelter said.  

Thompson has spoken with many women who have gone through a situation like this.

“They remove all of their cell phones, they take passports, IDs, all of those kinds of things so they can’t identify themselves,” Thompson said.

She said it’s most common for people to get swept into the industry from social media sites, but once you’re in, it feels impossible to escape.

“They go where the need is,” Thompson said. “So when the buyers are contacting the traffickers, saying ‘I want this’ then the traffickers arrange that.”

Sometimes traffickers ship people across regions to where the bulk of sex buyers are, which can be high profile events. One of the largest associated with trafficking is the Super Bowl.  

“We’re finding now, there’s a lot of focus with the Super Bowl coming to Minnesota and to the Twin Cities area and there’s a huge task force trying to deal with and manage the sex trafficking problems that will be happening there,” Thompson said.  

The Minnesota Women’s Foundation reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high incidence rate of child trafficking.

“The pimps are bringing their girls and their boys where the potential buyers are,” Flatness said. “So they’re bringing them in reportedly from all over the country because the demand is so high during those types of events,” Flatness said.

Flatness also said that demand could cause traffickers from the Albert Lea, Austin and Rochester areas to send more victims up to Minneapolis.

“For instance, the Super Bowl, although promoted that it was one of the biggest sex trafficking events in history, we’re not sure that that’s entirely true,” Flatness said. “But it’s definitely a time where there’s huge potential and efforts are being made to prevent that.”

The Minnesota Women’s Foundation has set up an anti-sex trafficking committee for the Super Bowl. It’s made up of around 70 people who are a part of 40 different groups, including law enforcement.

“I don’t think it’s going to be astronomical, I don’t think it’ll be out of this world, but I think there will be an uptick in it,” the undercover officer said.

This officer asked not to be identified. He’s worked undercover on more than 200 operations in Olmsted County, including sex trafficking stings.

“I think anytime you’ve got an increase of people, and especially as much money as the Super Bowl brings in, I think you’re going to have an increase in demand,” he said.  

Regardless of how much sex trafficking increases around the Super Bowl, law enforcement said it’s a huge problem they combat daily.  

“The more we teach people, the more we hear,” Flatness said.

They said it’s about prevention.

“We’re taking it to the schools and teaching the young people and the instructors, the teachers what to look for and how to avoid these situations,” Flatness said. 

They’re doing what they can to offer help to people in the community.

“We want the young people to know that even if they do fall into it, that they make a mistake, it’s a mistake, come to us, come to somebody and let us help you, don’t consider it a lost cause,” Flatness said.  

If you’re caught in this lifestyle and need help, or know someone who might, ABC 6 News has resources listed on kaaltv.com. The Rochester Women’s Shelter (507-285-1010) and Safe Harbor Minnesota Regional Navigators (1-866-223-1111)said they’re willing to help victims in any way possible.


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Elise Romas

Copyright 2017 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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