Groups on alert for human trafficking spike during Super Bowl

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 14, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 15 at 6:24 PM

Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- Security will be tight when the Super Bowl comes to town in less than three weeks, and part of the focus for authorities will be to target a disturbing form of organized crime.

Amid the glitz and glamour of what is one of the world's biggest events lies a dark underworld, where advocacy groups say women and, far too often, underage girls are trafficked in for sex.

"The Super Bowl is actually estimated to be one of the largest human trafficking events in the world and it's because anytime there is increased demand, there will increased supply," said Kara Van de Carr, executive director of Eden House, a home for trafficking victims in New Orleans.

She said the trade is difficult to stop.

"(Victims are) delivered to a hotel or an apartment or wherever it is and all of that is beneath the radar and it's very hard for law enforcement to detect that activity," Van de Carr said.

Emily Ruffino, with the group Free-NOLA, said often trafficking victims are underage girls who may have run away from home.

"They get picked up on the street from the pimps and they can provide food and a place for them to stay, but they have to work for it. They’re girls who may think that they now have a debt to pay off, and so by paying off that debt, they have to take part in prostitution," Ruffino said.

Advocates say trafficking is a problem in the New Orleans area year-round, as it's an easily accessible city known as a tourism destination.

Now, with two major events -- the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras -- just around the corner, efforts to attack these criminal networks behind the trade are stepping up.

"Between federal law enforcement here in New Orleans, state law enforcement, non profits, there are a lot of people coming together,” Van de Carr said. “They recognize this is an issue. There have been multiple trainings, conferences, and there are people coming in to actually combat the problem."

However, Ruffino said authorities and advocates need help.

"This is something that our community needs to take part in to rescue these girls, because they can't do it themselves," she said.

 

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