One of the most consistent conversations tied to the Super Bowl is the concern of a spike in human trafficking during the big game weekend. Because of the game’s popularity, the Super Bowl brings visitors from all over the world who spend big money. This also attracts the worst of the worst and increases the potential for sex traffickers.
In the age of constant information, everything becomes polarizing, including sex trafficking. Some outlets want you to believe trafficking during the Super Bowl is a hoax, but don’t believe them.
Sex trafficking is a problem that disproportionately affects poor Black women. If advocates or law enforcement tell you that this is a real issue, believe them.
This year’s big game is in Los Angeles, which makes the risk even greater. According to experts, the city is extremely vulnerable to sex trafficking because of its proximity to airports and the U.S.-Mexico border.
But Los Angeles had a human trafficking problem way before the city won its bid to host the big game. According to statistics from the National Trafficking Hotline, in 2019 Los Angeles had the highest number of human trafficking cases in the country with 1,507 reported cases.
L.A. also has a homeless problem, which breeds opportunities for traffickers. According to a report by Curbed Los Angeles, almost one-third of the nearly 60,000 homeless residents in Los Angeles are women. Of those women, more than 25% said they had experienced violence “often” or “always.” 10% of the women also reported human trafficking experiences in their lifetimes. Black people represent 8% of the Los Angeles County population but make up 34% of its homeless population.
But who does human trafficking affect the most–Yep, you guessed it, Black women.
According to a report by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 57.5% of all juvenile prostitution arrests are Black children. The report also found that 40% of sex trafficking victims identified as Black women.
Another disturbing find from the report suggested that traffickers target Black women more often because they believe getting caught trafficking Black women would land them less jail time if caught. Black women are more like to experience poverty and low socioeconomic status. This makes them more vulnerable targets for traffickers. Due to circumstances many Black women victims are also less likely to leave the bad situation to make ends meet.
Los Angeles advocacy groups, as well as companies, are ramping up efforts ahead of the Super Bowl to combat the potential trafficking problem.
Uber has staffed a public safety team and plans on distributing local hotline information to their driver so they can report any suspected trafficking immediately. The company is also sending info to all drivers about how to identify potential victims of trafficking.
“We prepare for big events, whether that’s the Super Bowl, the Olympics, anything that has been going on in our cities,” said Carrol Chang, global head of driver and courier operations for Uber.
Human trafficking is more about opportunity than it is about the Super Bowl, but regardless Black women are the most at risk and that makes this conversation worth having.