Study Links Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos completes a pass for a 16 yard gain against the defense of cornerback Byron Maxwell #41 of the Seattle Seahawks during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
See more stories about...
Billy House
March 4, 2014, 9:45 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
2 days ago

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.