from the sex-trafficking-still-a-relatively-safe-profession dept
Every Super Bowl is greeted with the same breathless stories about sex trafficking. As thousands of visitors descend on the unlucky host of The Big Game™, local law enforcement agencies — sometimes accompanied by the DHS — are there to claim there will be a sex trafficking victim for every Super Bowl attendee. Hundreds of law enforcement officers perform sweeps costing taxpayers millions of dollars. And every year, it’s the same story: very little sex trafficking found, but a whole lot of sex buyers and sex workers are cited and/or jailed.
Prostitution may be the oldest profession, but it couldn’t have been far ahead of “law enforcement spokesperson.” Someone is always on the scene to spout meaningless numbers to press stenographers in order to perpetuate the myth that large gatherings = sex trafficking en masse. Few journalists dig into these claims.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason does perform the due diligence local journalists won’t. Following the 2017 Super Bowl, Brown obtained booking sheets to see if law enforcement had snagged dozens of sex traffickers in the 750+ arrests made pre-Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 2017 was held in Houston, which sits in Harris County, Texas. Each day, the county posts its previous 24-hours worth of arrests on the Harris County Sherrif’s Office (HCSO) website. The arrest report for February 6, 2017, contains more than 11 pages of arrests, including 12 for prostitution, a lot of DUI and driving-on-a-suspended-license charges, some marijuana possession, several assaults, theft, forgery, driving without a seatbelt, one “parent contributing to truancy,” and a few for racing on the highway. The February 7 HSCO arrest log shows three arrests for prostitution. But neither reveals a single arrest for sex trafficking, soliciting a minor, pimping, promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, or any other charges that might suggest forced or voluntary sex trade.
Maggie McNeill, an actual sex worker, has also debunked victorious pre-Super Bowl claims delivered by police hype men. According to law enforcement, more than “42” victims of sex trafficking were “contacted” during prostitution sweeps prior to the 2016 Super Bowl. But there’s not 42 of anything in this mess:
42 potential human trafficking victims were contacted during the three weeks leading up to the big game…More than half of the victims were put in direct contact with an advocate or support group and…the task force arrested or cited 30…alleged clients of possible prostitutes…one “girl” was arrested for prostitution and resisting arrest…another “girl” was cited for prostitution…four people were cited for aiding in prostitution, two were cited for loitering with intent for prostitution, one potential victim disclosed other sex crimes and kidnapping, and two human trafficking cases involved a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old from Sacramento which resulted in a human trafficking arrest…one arrest for violation of a domestic violence restraining order and three arrests for other warrants…
As McNeill points out, the 15-year-old was a runaway with mental health issues — a far cry from the panicked claims sex traffickers are lurking everywhere to poach teens off the street. As for the 17-year-old, she was apparently being “trafficked” by a slightly-older friend, who was also arrested.
As even McNeill notes, sex trafficking does happen. It just happens far less frequently than government officials claim, even as they use it to justify sweeps that do nothing more than temporarily inconvenience a few johns or, worse, punch holes in legal protections for third-party service providers. None of what’s detailed above justifies all of the following, as summarized by McNeill and her inimitable prose:
Vast amounts of hype, blanketing an entire metropolis with pigs, spooks and g-men, millions wasted, thousands of words of anti-whore propaganda bloviated out, and for what? 21 women were given a phone number, 30 guys were tricked by cops with fake ads, two adult and two underage sex workers were arrested, six other people were arrested on bullshit charges, and four people arrested on warrants. The other 21 women were essentially just made up; “potential trafficking victims”? Really? Yeah, well every sex worker in the Bay Area is a potential police brutality and police rape victim, but I don’t see them counting that statistic.
Last year’s Super Bowl featured the same stories. Law enforcement officials claimed they had busted 94 men in a “sex trafficking sting.” In reality, all they’d done is arrest 94 men for trying to solicit sex from law enforcement officers pretending to be underage girls. Again, a couple dozen “potential victims” were “contacted” and referred to outreach groups, but nowhere in the arrest records will you find an actual sex trafficker, despite 57 officers putting in “20 hour days” for 11 straight days prior to the Super Bowl.
This year’s stories have arrived and the numbers delivered by law enforcement again suggest two possibilities: either sex trafficking isn’t nearly as prevalent as they believe it is, or the business model has some serious flaws.
Days before the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are set to face off in Atlanta, 33 people were busted for sex trafficking in the lead-up to the big game, federal law enforcement officials announced Wednesday.
In a press conference outlining Super Bowl LIII safety measures, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the arrests, adding four victims have been rescued.
33 traffickers and only four victims. Sure, the ratio’s never going to be one-to-one, but you’d think it would be a lot closer than that. It’s unlikely any trafficker is trafficking only one victim. In order for it to be the multi-billion dollar industry alarmists claim it is, traffickers most likely have at least a few victims each just to ensure profitability. Even if these traffickers are cut-and-run experts, you’d think the ratio would be more like three-to-one at worst, rather than ten-to-one.
The narrative about mass sex trafficking — probably involving large numbers of underage victims — is already falling apart. The DHS is being willfully vague about the arrests, but statements from local law enforcement agencies point to a bunch of cops sitting at desks pretending to be teenagers. And there appears to be a lack of underage victims, which kind of undercuts the usefulness of playing internet dress-up with pervs around the country.
On Jan. 23 and 24, Homeland Security assisted in a joint operation in Douglas County using undercover officers, social media sites and local hotel rooms, the Douglasville Police Department said Wednesday. Sixteen people were arrested, according to police, and the youngest person involved was 17. The timing of the crackdown was related to the Super Bowl, police said.
I not so boldly predict this narrative will collapse on itself just like it has following every other Super Bowl. The Big Game may draw big numbers. But it’s not a sex trafficking mecca, nor is it an almost invisible symptom of a supposedly-billion dollar problem.
Filed Under: dhs, exaggeration, ice, moral panic, overhype, sex trafficking, sex workers, super bowl