Miami unveils campaign to crack down on human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl 2020

Miami law enforcement agencies are using the upcoming Super Bowl to call attention to South Florida’s human trafficking problem.

At a downtown Metromover station Wednesday, the Super Bowl host committee, Miami-Dade state attorney, federal officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security, and representatives from the Women’s Fund unveiled a campaign against human trafficking ahead of the big game in February 2020.

Advertisements reading “See It. Snap It. Send It,” “Not What You Think,” and “Buy Sex. Be Exposed” around the station encourage the public to report suspicious behavior to a newly formed hotline (305-FIX-STOP) by calling or texting. Billboards, bus shelter ads and social media messaging will be rolling out in the coming months.

Oliver G. Gilbert III, the mayor of Miami Gardens, where the game will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium, said every level of government is united with one message for those who come to visit: “We are not for sale.”

“We are going to send a very strong message that we will not tolerate the exploitation of our youth,” said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney.

The public attention on sex trafficking represents a big shift in Super Bowl planning for Miami, said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the 2020 Super Bowl XIV committee, who also chaired the 2007 and the 2010 committees of South Florida Super Bowls past.

“Ten years ago, we didn’t talk about it,” he said. “We’ve evolved as a community. This is a problem that prevails whether there’s a Super Bowl or not. We’re being responsible.”

When Barreto was in Atlanta for the 2019 Super Bowl, he said he took photos of Atlanta’s sex trafficking campaign signs at the airport with the aim of replicating the idea for Miami.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

The FBI in Atlanta made 169 arrests related to human trafficking ahead of the 2019 Super Bowl. Law enforcement officials in Minneapolis made more than 110 arrests ahead of the 2018 Super Bowl there.

Miami-Dade is the most popular county in Florida for human trafficking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Florida is the third most popular state. U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said events like Art Basel that draw a lot of out-of-town guests require ramped-up enforcement. Her office will be focusing on prosecuting traffickers, including labor traffickers, with serious charges, not victims for prostitution.

“We don’t focus on prosecuting prostitution,” she said. “This initiative is to focus on traffickers.”

Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.