Joint Super Bowl Operation Targeting Commercial Child Sex Trafficking Rescue 25 Minors, Apprehends 45 Suspects
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of U.S. and New Jersey law enforcement agencies who took part in a Joint Super Bowl Operation deserve tremendous credit for rescuing 25 children ages 13-17 from lives of misery and sexual abuse, and for arresting 45 suspects who allegedly exploited the children for commercial sex, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights, and author of the landmark law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386).
According to the FBI, which announced the arrests yesterday, some suspects claimed to have traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically for the purpose of prostituting women and children at the Super Bowl. High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises, the FBI said.
“This unprecedented effort by federal agencies in collaboration with local law enforcement from New Jersey aggressively focused on combating commercial child sex trafficking,” said Smith. “The joint efforts and the extraordinary leadership shown by Governor Christie and the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task force is to be applauded for working effectively to help save lives.
“Young victims now have a chance for a new start thanks to these arrests and rescues. Those who took advantage of young runaways and women forced or mislead into a life of sex trafficking and abuse must now face justice. Hopefully this effective effort will become a prototype and have a chilling effect on perpetrators across the nation and around the globe.”
The minors recovered during the Super Bowl operations included high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families. The operation also resulted in the recovery of international human trafficking victims. The FBI provided 70 women and children basic needs such as food, clothing, and referrals to health care facilities, shelters, and other services. The 25 children rescued included 16 announced yesterday.
The FBI’s Super Bowl operation efforts are part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative launched in 2003 by its Criminal Investigative Division, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to take on the growing scourge of child prostitution in the United States.
The Newark FBI worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, and with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency and New Jersey Department of Human Services Police Force. The bureau also worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the KlaasKids Foundation and Polaris Project.
Smith has held numerous trafficking hearings including the most recent on Jan. 27 entitled “Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events,” which featured the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, and Delta Air Lines, AMTRAK and non-government organization (NGOs) anti-trafficking advocates.
“Human trafficking ruins lives, destroys childhoods and turns human beings into objects to be bought and sold, and child sex trafficking and forced prostitution are probably among the worst of all human rights abuses,” Smith said. “The threat of sex trafficking of women and children is not just at an annual Super Bowl or an occasional Olympics or World Cup. Sex trafficking happens throughout the year, all over the world. There are so many victims hurt so badly.
“The rescue of even just one victim—let alone 25—implores us to continue to consistently fight human trafficking every day,” Smith said.
In preparation for the Super Bowl this past weekend, the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force, which was originally started with seed money from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 written by Smith—who also wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws—has been working for months to mitigate sex trafficking. It has released anti-trafficking brochures to bus and train employees in New Jersey, as well as reached out to hotels, another major industry on the front lines of spotting traffickers and victims.