It's been six weeks since the Super Bowl in early February, but some people are still paying a price for it.
In Our Backyard, a national organization that fights against trafficking of women and children, focuses on the Super Bowl because of the large part it plays in human trafficking each year. Nita Belles, founder and executive director of In Our Backyard, says 8,280 convenience store operators were trained in 2017 to recognize and report missing and possibly trafficked children. Also in 2017, 78,000 Freedom Stickers with a hotline number for help were placed in restrooms across all 50 states, and 2,150 books were distributed during the Super Bowl with pictures of missing children.
Belles and her team were engaged in activities for ten days in Minneapolis, Minnesota, host city of Super Bowl LII. It was the group's ninth operation surrounding the NFL championship game – and preparations began more than a year in advance. (See their Super Bowl 2018 report [PDF].)
"We had a large event," Belles tells OneNewsNow, "with over 200 volunteers trained to go out and do anti-trafficking work in the community. They placed 1,500 Freedom Stickers and 2,500 missing children's books."
Distribution of those books, she says, paid off. "Fifteen missing children were recovered, 94 human traffickers were arrested, and we assisted law enforcement by providing them leads to make the cases for the arrests they made during the anti-trafficking efforts surrounding the Super Bowl," Belles adds.
The fact that the community was mobilized and trained means the ten-day project will have a lingering effect. Women and children were rescued from being trafficked – and the victimizers are behind bars.