As Super Bowl festivities winded down in Atlanta this weekend, authorities celebrated a different kind of win. Investigators reported a total of 40 sex trafficking-related arrests in the week leading up to the big game.
Last Wednesday, Homeland Security Investigations Agent Nick Annan told reporters that 33 individuals had been arrested on sex trafficking charges. On Friday, Homeland Security spokesperson Brian Cox noted that seven additional arrests were made, WTOL-TV reported. In addition to the arrests, two adults and two juveniles were rescued.
Annan noted Wednesday 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.”
Additional efforts to fight sex trafficking
The problem of sex trafficking surrounding major sporting events is sadly nothing new. The city of Atlanta, where Super Bowl LIII was held, is widely considered to be the biggest sex trafficking hub in America.
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. The weekend before the Super Bowl, 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.
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.
How are NFL players contributing?
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and teammate Roddy White joined forces with Nick Foles, Aaron Rodgers, Benjamin Watson and other NFL players to raise awareness about sex trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl.
Working with anti-trafficking organization It’s A Penalty, which encourages people to take action if they recognize signs of exploitation, the athletes appeared in a public service announcement addressing the problem.
? Today we launch #itsapenalty 2019 global campaign around the Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta with the release of our awareness video, featuring high profile athletes. Stand with us against exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people!
RT ? to spread awareness! pic.twitter.com/G4ITe3PPdY
— It's a Penalty (@its_apenalty) January 15, 2019
The success of law enforcement in arresting 40 offenders during Super Bowl week was aided by widespread public support for anti-trafficking efforts. Ahead of the Super Bowl, the city of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport hosted the ATL End Human Trafficking Summit at the Georgia International Convention Center.
“The city of Atlanta is committed to ending human trafficking of all people,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of vulnerable populations and strengthen the systems necessary to help every citizen of Atlanta thrive.”