33 arrested for sex trafficking ahead of Super Bowl weekend

33 arrested for sex trafficking ahead of Super Bowl weekend

Soon enough it'll be time for the Super Bowl one more, with the 53rd edition of the monumental sports event airing on Sunday February 3.  The two-time defending champions, the New England Patriots, will be facing off against the Los Angeles Rams to determine the champion of the NFL's 2018 season, with the game taking place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It will be a rematch of 2002's Super Bowl XXXVI, in which the Patriots defeated the Rams 20-17.

The Patriots are making their third consecutive appearance at the Super Bowl, after they were defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles last year and their overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. The halftime show is set to be headlined by Maroon 5, who will be joined by guests Big Boi from Outkast and Travis Scott.

While many are focusing on the outcome of the game, this time of year has some unintended consequences. Given the large scale of the event, in which fans from all over the country try to watch the game live and others gather in their homes and various bars to watch the event, criminal elements take advantage of the large crowds.

Because of this, events like the Super Bowl have become known to be a hotspot for sex trafficking. It has been reported that pimps often bring sex workers into the cities that hold the games at the time of the event, hoping to sell to fans - and this year is no different. Just days before the Patriots and the Rams are set to play, 33 people were arrested for sex trafficking charges in the lead-up to the game, according to an announcement on Wednesday by federal law enforcement officials.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the arrests at a press conference outlining safety measures being undertaken for Super Bowl LIII, adding that four victims were also rescued. She explained that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are working together to conduct "proactive human trafficking enforcement operations as we speak."

“[We’re] ensuring that criminals don’t use these events to exploit the most vulnerable among us," Nielsen continued, "[we] have trained businesses and state and local entities to spot the signs of trafficking."

This is a problem that previous Super Bowl events have faced, with incidents recorded in both 2017 and 2018. According to Reuters, over 100 arrests were made in Houston, Texas in 2017. Last year, Minneapolis police confirmed that 94 men were arrested in sex trafficking cases in the 11 days leading up to the game, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

“Sex trafficking is something that’s happening every day, all day, right now and we need to get the public more engaged and talk about hard things,” Laura Mulliken, director of community engagement and development at Source MN, said at the time.

The special agent put in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations operation, Nick Annan, said that all these arrests occurred over the last four days, but refused to discuss any further details of the various cases. “We plan to continue what we’re doing,” Annan said.