New Jersey law enforcers have redoubled efforts to fight what they worry could be one of the biggest menaces to come with next month’s Super Bowl: sex trafficking, the Associated Press reports. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to gather for the Feb. 2 game. Many believe the state’s sprawling highway system, proximity to New York City and diverse population make it an attractive base of operations for traffickers. “New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus. “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.”
New Jersey strengthened its human trafficking law last year, but in August a federal judge ruled that part of the law on commercial sex ads posted online may conflict with federal law. The state is appealing. Danielle Douglas, who calls herself as a sex-trafficking survivor, said any major sporting event attracts sex traffickers. “The Super Bowl is a huge, huge arena for sex trafficking,” she said. Some visitors “are coming to the Super Bowl not even to watch football – they are coming … to have sex.” New Jersey officials have trained law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of trafficking. Local houses of worship are notifying congregants of warning signs, and truckers are being trained to look for people – mostly women but also men – who may be held against their will. Sex trafficking, to be prosecuted, must involve – unlike prostitution – not only a buyer and seller of sex but also a pimp or trafficker controlling the transaction, says the New Jersey attorney general’s office.