The Super Bowl will bring thousands of people to the Sunshine State and Tampa, but that’s got state and local law enforcement renewing their warnings about sex trafficking.
What You Need To Know
- Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa is expected to be the biggest in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Due to the number of people arriving for the game, law enforcement officials are renewing warnings about sex trafficking
- Large events can attract human traffickers, officials say
Not only is it the nation’s biggest sporting event of the year, and just a short drive down I-4 from Central Florida, but Sunday’s game is set to be the nation’s biggest in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S.
With about 25,000 fans allowed inside the stadium, but many more gathering in Tampa.
But with the return of such a large in person gathering, comes the return of the sinister business that thrives off it.
“And with that, people come, people from all over the world come, so traffickers see that, and they want to meet that demand,” said advocate for victims of human trafficking for the UCF police department, Lauren Portal.
The Human Trafficking hotline received 48,326 calls and messages about human trafficking in 2019.
Portal says Florida is number 3 in the nation for calls to the hotline.
She’s echoing warnings, like the one from the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, when she said: “Here in the Middle District of Florida, we are committed to protecting our most vulnerable citizens from becoming human trafficking victims. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is our responsibility to aggressively prosecute those who endeavor to exploit it for their financial gain and to educate our community to be on the lookout for the signs of human trafficking.”
“They’re training Uber and Lyft drivers to you know, if they see something, say something, so there’s a lot of awareness events leading up to the game,” Portal said.
And Portal says everyone, not just workers, should be on the lookout for signs like these this weekend in Tampa and always.
“If you see you know, branding on the neck, sometimes it’s “property of” or a barcode; bruises that are unexplained, can’t look you in the eye … do they have multiple hotel room keys, do they have multiple phones?” she said.
Portal says if you see something that doesn’t feel right to you, call law enforcement.
She says there’s no tip that’s too small or unimportant to report.
“It’s OK to be wrong, but what if you’re right? What if somethings happening? What if it’s something bigger than what you’re seeing?….you could potentially save a life,” Portal said.
The national human trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888 or you can text the hotline at 233733.
And you can always call 911.