As football fans look forward to Super Bowl weekend with eager anticipation, Atlanta authorities are exposing an unfortunate aspect of the major event: spikes in sex trafficking. According to ABC News, authorities have arrested 33 people in Atlanta on sex trafficking charges leading up to the big game.
The arrests happened this week, Homeland Security Investigations Agent Nick Annan told reporters Wednesday. He declined to offer further details as investigations are still ongoing.
Last week, 16 people were arrested in a Super Bowl-related undercover investigation by the Douglasville police. Police say four victims have been rescued so far.
Annan noted that for the past two years, local, state and federal agencies have been working together in planning Super Bowl security.
“You’ll hear a lot of talk this week about game-planning. The teams involved in this year’s Super Bowl are putting together their game plan and preparing for their game day,” he said. “All of the law enforcement and public safety partners involved in securing this year’s Super Bowl have been putting together our game plan for the past two years. Really, our game day kicked off several days ago, and we’ll continue executing our plan and our plays throughout the week.”
The problem of sex trafficking surrounding major sporting events is sadly nothing new. The city of Atlanta, where the Los Angeles Rams will face off against the New England Patriots Sunday, just happens to be the biggest sex trafficking hub in America. And while victim advocates will note that trafficking is a year-round challenge for law enforcement across the country, the big game has made the issue all the more urgent.
The group S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) has played an active role in saving teenage girls from sex trafficking rings in the metro Atlanta area and around the country. Over the weekend, S.O.A.P. volunteers passed out flyers with the names and photos of 16 teens who recently went missing. According to the group, two girls on the flyer were identified as having been to hotels recently in the city.
“Hotel staff were able to identify two of the girls and said they had seen them recently,” a S.O.A.P. spokesperson told WXIA-TV. “Now they will be able to alert authorities the next time they see them.”
S.O.A.P., which operates in high-risk areas for sex trafficking, hands out bars of soap to hotels, with labels that list resources for sex trafficking victims. To learn more about the work they are doing to end sex trafficking and protect victims, click here.
Please join Faithwire in praying for the safe and swift rescue of the missing teen girls, as well as justice for all victims of sex trafficking.