While most of us spent Super Bowl Sunday watching the most talked about commercials, Lady Gaga slaying the halftime show, and stuffing our faces with way too many wings, chips and dip, more than 700 sex buyers and 20 pimps were being arrested.
In an effort to crack down on sex trafficking, The National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI), a coalition of 30 law enforcement agencies across 15 states, joined forces on Sunday, January 18, to coordinate a sting operation.
It is estimated that there are as many as 30 million slaves in the world today who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Eighty percent of which are women, and half are children. Expert opinion and research suggest spikes in sex trafficking during large-scale events such as the Super Bowl.
According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois, both the number of arrests and the participation level were the highest to date for Super Bowl operations since the initiative began 13 years ago.
Arlington Heights Police Sgt. Chuck Buczynski explained the vision of the initiative:
“The ultimate goal is to eradicate the human trafficking aspect of prostitution. In the past, we arrested the prostitute, but we realized if we arrest the ‘john,’ you eliminate the customer base. And no customers, no prostitution.”
Human trafficking is a massive fight to take on. Many law enforcement agencies are finding it necessary to employ the help of other organizations like the Airline Ambassadors International program, which trains airline attendants to spot if a woman or young male are being trafficked.
Like the recent Super Bowl sting operation, organizations like AAI are already seeing the fruits of their labor in the human trafficking arena.
Alaska Airlines flight attendant Shelia Fredrick said she instinctively felt something was “off” when she noticed a teen with greasy blond hair traveling with a well-dressed, older man. The flight was from Seattle to San Francisco, just before the Golden city hosted Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
“I left a note in one of the bathrooms,” Fredrick said. “She wrote back on the note and said, ‘I need help.'”
Her training through AAI is what led her to notice things she may not have recognized in travelers before. Fredrick alerted the pilot, and police were waiting to arrest the man as soon as the plane landed.
It’s operations like these that are truly saving the lives of so many victims out there who have been trafficked, abused, drugged, kidnapped, raped and sold. There is hope for their future, and for a world of freedom for these survivors.