Whenever a large gathering or event draws significant numbers of people to an area, there is, unfortunately, a heightened demand for illicit activities. Human trafficking, including sex trafficking, is no exception. Large sporting events like the Super Bowl, Indy 500, and March Madness bring substantial revenue to their host cities, but they also create opportunities for traffickers to exploit our fellow human beings for profit.
According to Jim Dinkins, former Head of Homeland Security Investigations, police often perceive these events as "perfect storms" due to the concentrated nature of the crimes in terms of time and location. Law enforcement officers conduct sting operations during these events to help curb these illegal and harmful activities. For instance, during the NCAA Men's Tournament Final Four in Minneapolis, officials arrested 58 people in a sex trafficking sting operation, with 47 charged for felony solicitation of a minor and 11 for sex trafficking or promotion of prostitution.
Efforts are increasing in collaboration with law enforcement and staff within hospitality industries, such as hotels, massage parlors, adult entertainment clubs, and restaurants, to identify and report any signs of trafficking. The SOAP Project is an example of a hands-on community program that helps combat human trafficking by distributing bars of soap labeled with the National Trafficking Hotline to hotels during large sporting events.
Awareness and education about the signs of trafficking are crucial in addressing this issue. Look for individuals who appear fearful, anxious, tense, or nervous, avoid eye contact, seem malnourished, or show signs of physical abuse. They may have few or no personal possessions and lack control over their finances or identification documents. A lack of knowledge about their location or claims of merely visiting could also indicate involvement in trafficking.
It is vital to remember that human trafficking occurs year-round, not just during major events. It is a daily problem in all communities. God's Word reminds us that every individual, including trafficking survivors, is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), formed in the womb by our Savior (Psalm 139:13), and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We must acknowledge and respect their inherent value and worth, treating them with the utmost dignity. By approaching everyone with love and empathy, we can reflect God's grace and mercy in our actions and take the first step in helping them live a victorious and healthy life.