More than 820 online ads for prostitution in the New York City and New Jersey area in the days before last month's Super Bowl may have involved victims of sex traffickers, according to a study to be released this week by John McCain's Institute for International Leadership.
Fifty of the ads found on a well-known sex-selling website in the 10 days before the Feb. 2 Super Bowl were flagged by the researchers as potentially involving minors and were sent immediately to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The sheer volume of those sex-for-sale ads and the potential involvement of minors and sex-trafficking victims exceeded the expectations of the research team. The full report will be released Thursday in Tempe, Ariz., by Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, from the School of Social Work at Arizona State University, and by Cindy McCain and Phoenix Police Lt. James Gallagher in Washington.
Next year's Super Bowl is set to be held in Glendale, Ariz. Cindy McCain has been seeking to bring more public awareness to the issue of sex trafficking around major sporting events. She testified last week before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
"The McCain Institute is proud to invest in new research surrounding sex trafficking and large sporting events," said McCain, who is cochair of the Arizona Governor's Task Force on Human Trafficking. "A research-based, greater understanding of how these networks are operating gives us all a better opportunity to combat human trafficking every day."
With the assistance of local law enforcement, the researchers reviewed 987 online commercial sex ads placed on a site with readership across parts of New York and New Jersey in the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J.
During the course of the study, 954 of the ads screened indicated prostitution. And of those screened, 826, or 83.7 percent, had "indicators of a possible sex trafficking victim." The ads were further reviewed using a "matrix tool" to assist in identifying potential minor victims based on language, photos, and other clues.
That led to 50 of the ads being flagged as potentially involving minors.
In addition, the team placed decoy ads using an image provided by law enforcement in the geographic area closest to the Super Bowl venue, which included North Jersey, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. During the course of study, the decoy ad generated 1,457 contacts who responded using voicemail or text message.