BRYAN, TEXAS — Large crowds present a natural opportunity for trafficking to occur, but a local non-profit supporting human trafficking victims say there is no evidence to show the Super Bowl reveals a surge in trafficking cases.
Just like the upcoming 'big game', any large celebratory events that draw in big-spending out-of-town-visitors could increase the probability for trafficking to happen and be reported, with more eyes and ears looking out for it, but does that mean trafficking actually happens more?
"We don't want to equate that to numbers of actual human trafficking occurring, while we know the demand increases and online add activity, we don't have empirical data that actually correlates the super bowl being the #1 event that increases trafficking," Amanda Buenger, Executive Director of Unbound BCS says.
Buenger says online advertisements for sex does increase during large events, but it's not any different from any other large-scale event on any other given day.
"We don't want this narrative to say "trafficking just looks like these big public event type" incidences, it actually happens every day in the general public in our own community," Buenger added.
Buenger says while it is nice that during sporting events, awareness surrounding trafficking is heightened, it's still a disputed issue.
"If we are looking for it on a consistent basis and we are prepared to see it in our own communities, we would see it happening every day in our own communities, not just big events," Buenger said.
Scotty's House, a non-profit child advocacy center serving the Brazos Valley, says we can all tackle the demand for trafficking, even if the game isn't being played here.
"Human trafficking, child sex trafficking takes place 365 days a year in every community, but what we see when you have large sporting events like the super bowl NCAA tournament, you see just a flood of people to these communities and with that often comes and increase in demand for child victims to be used for trafficking." Cary Baker, Executive Director at Scotty's House said. "What people can do is be aware to do what they can to try and stop it. Know the signs of a trafficking victim. To know when you see something going down, to report it to try and stop it," Baker added.
In relation to local domestic violence surrounding sporting events, Lauren Spitznagle with the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Bryan says her team sees an increased peak of calls coming into their hot-line.
"In every state that I've worked in and I've worked in 5 states, the super bowl is a huge night for domestic violence and sexual assault. "Bartenders are ultimately individuals that can see and assess situations especially super bowl night and they can help prevent crime from occurring by watching for red flags," Spitznagle, Executive Director at SARC said.
Experts say trafficking, assaults and abuse happen every day and they are not specific to any one event and the big game is just helping bring awareness to an industry already out there.
Our sister station out of Tampa announced that on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced 71 people were arrested in a month-long investigation known as "Operation Interception." The operation, according to HCSO, was created to "combat human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February 2021."