By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With Super Bowl Sunday approaching, law enforcement authorities, aware that the biggest sporting event of the year is also prime time for sex trafficking, are on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
CNN reported that cops have made nearly 200 arrests for sex trafficking and related crimes in New York City in the days leading up to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
Vice units of the New York Police Department trained in dealing with sex trafficking and prostitution have conducted street busts and undercover stings to crackdown on sex trafficking, CNN reported.
In Brooklyn, meanwhile, a group of teenage girls is working to raise awareness of sex trafficking by focusing on helping the victims.
Students at Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge, conducted a seminar early this month to urge local residents to be aware of signs of sex trafficking.
Students said residents should be on alert when they visit restaurants, nail salons, and other everyday places. Be on the lookout for anyone who appears to be fearful of talking to strangers, or appears to be dominated by an employer to a menacing degree, students said.
“The Super Bowl accounts for the single largest number of human trafficking incidents in the United States. In Miami at the Super Bowl three years ago, 10,000 women were brought in,” Fontbonne Hall student Mary Wrynn told the audience during the presentation at the school.
Residents are urged to report any suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which is open 24-hours a day.
The students said that they learned through their research that the victims are often immigrants who arrive in the U.S. with no money and fall into the hands of unscrupulous men who promise to get them legitimate jobs but instead force them into lives of prostitution.
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) said a new law on the books might help victims come forward to seek help.
“All sexually exploited youth will now be treated as victims instead of criminals,” Brook-Krasny wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Under the new law, the court will have the ability to treat 16- and 17-year-old individuals who allegedly engaged in prostitution activity as persons in need of supervision (PINS) and expand the ability for these victims to access vital services. After all they have been through, it’s important that they receive the necessary assistance to prevent them from going back to a life of abuse,” Brook-Krasny wrote.
According to some estimates, nearly 300,000 children become victims of labor and sex trafficking in the U.S. each year, with the average age of prostitution for a child beginning at 13-14 years old.
“Nothing is worse than a crime committed against a child. Young victims of sexual exploitation should receive treatment and services to assist them in coping with their traumatic abuse as well as to prevent re-victimization. In no way should they be treated as criminals in the eyes of the law. That’s why I supported legislation recently signed into law that grants 16- and 17-year-old victims of sex trafficking the same protection as those currently given to younger victims,” Brook-Krasny wrote.
Calling human trafficking “modern-day slavery,” Brook-Krasny said that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data revealed that sex trafficking is one of the fastest rising crimes in the world.