By David Cruz
Super Bowl week is an annual opportunity for law enforcement officials to raise awareness about human trafficking. Now in its tenth year, the state’s Human Trafficking Task Force is run through the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General John Hoffman said today the week leading up to the Super Bowl presents the perfect set of circumstances for exploitation.
“The huge entertainment spectacle brings together a lot of men, with a lot of money, from around the globe with very little accountability,” said Hoffman. “You know not many guys are bringing their families to the Super Bowl with them. Because of that it ran the risk of a higher degree of human trafficking, so we really got out ahead of that.”
Hoffman says last year’s effort — with the game in New Jersey — showed the kind of impact authorities can have when they concentrate their efforts and pour resources into a battle.
“I was there the night a lot of the officers went out on a human trafficking search and they came back and they were disappointed,” he said. “And I asked, ‘Why are you disappointed?’ They said, ‘We didn’t find anything.’ I said, ‘You didn’t find anything because we’re doing a great job educating people and communicating that it will not be tolerated in this state.’”
Hoffman said the efforts have helped the AG’s Office develop cases that are close to culmination, but that this year’s theme of Know it, See it, Report It is important to young people, many of whom were in the audience here. Officials say they are an important part of this effort because they are potential targets of exploitation and also because they can play a critical part in the fight against human trafficking.
“The goal of that is to show them that at any age you can assist the state, your community in combating human trafficking,” said Assistant Attorney General Tracy Thompson, who chairs the task force. “The children that we have today from Project Stay Gold as well as Benedictine Academy show you that children have a voice and can participate in combating trafficking.”
Sen. Jeff Chiesa, Hoffman’s predecessor, is credited with raising awareness about the issue during his term in the AG’s Office. He convened a Senate hearing on the issue and has made the point repeatedly that victim’s of human trafficking, particularly those forced into the sex trade, are rarely volunteers.
“These victims don’t have anything else. They have no one. They don’t have a voice,” he told the audience. “They don’t have a support system in many cases and if all of you don’t speak for them, no one will.”
“Where we fall short is providing services and support to assist survivors of human trafficking in thriving, in regaining their lives,” added Thompson. “That’s a very long road.”
Although today was about the success of this task force, the speakers here emphasized that its work is not over, that there are victims — and victimizers — still out there, in the week leading up to the Super Bowl and all the weeks after that.