FBI Arrests 45, Rescues 16 Teens in Super Bowl Child Sex Trafficking Ring

The FBI and local authorities rescued 16 underage sex workers as part of an operation to combat child sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. Law enforcement officials also arrested 45 pimps and their associates, several of whom admitted to traveling to New Jersey for Sunday's game. According to a statement released by the FBI, the rescued victims ranged in age from 13 to 17 years old, and several of them had been reported missing by their families.

High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.

The Bureau and local authorities are now working to get in contact with the victims' families and are providing them with food, shelter, and medical care.

Sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl has garnered much attention in the past few weeks, with many calling the annual sporting event the largest magnet for underage prostitution in the United States. In the run-up to the event, New Jersey law enforcement officials heightened efforts to combat the crime, reaching out to as many service providers as possible to teach them how to spot signs of sex trafficking.

However, some dismiss the link between the Super Bowl and a spike in sex trafficking as a myth, claiming there's no data to back it up. Increases in arrests of sex workers and sex traffickers around sporting events may well be a result of an increased police presence rather than increased activity. As Bustle reported last week:

Many reports are based on tangential things like a spike in prostitution ads on Craigslist, equating all sex-for-sale with sex trafficking. And with increased attention to sex work of all sorts, sex workers of all sorts wind up targeted by local law enforcement...these sorts of crackdowns wind up harming everyone engaged in prostitution, trafficked or not. The NYPD alone made 298 prostitution-related arrests in January.

While increased awareness of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl can only be a good thing, it's important to remember that this is a major issue every other day of the year too. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 1.5 million sex trafficking victims in the U.S. alone.