A Safer Super Bowl
The upcoming Super Bowl LI will be played on February 5, 2017 at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, and though the stadium itself has a capacity of 72,220 people, the event is expected to draw a crowd of over one million to the Houston metropolitan area. Like all large public events, the Super Bowl poses a challenge for state, local, and privately contracted security forces, as they handle everything from crowd control to threat identification. In recent years, one of the largest homeland security concerns regarding the Super Bowl and similar events is the widespread occurrence of illegal trade and trafficking, including drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, in particular. In the weeks preceding the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX, a multi-state law enforcement sting operation lasting from January 15 to February 1 arrested nearly 600 people in 17 states, and rescued 68 people from human trafficking operations. While trafficking is always a concern at events such as the Super Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas have taken several measures to minimize the threat, hopefully making 2017 the safest year yet.
The Department of Homeland Security created the Blue Campaign in 2010 to combat human trafficking, saying,
The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
This January, DHS renewed its commitment to trafficking prevention by reminding the American public that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and highlighting a list of common indicators that someone is being trafficked.
The State of Texas has a long record of prevention efforts when it comes to the problem of trafficking, and in December 2016, the Texas Attorney General’s Office released its annual report on the issue, entitled, The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report 2016. The report outlines the statewide anti-trafficking efforts and makes recommendations to the state legislature on how to best improve Texas’ anti-trafficking efforts.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton strongly condemned human trafficking in the 2016 Task Force Report, saying,
Human trafficking is the antithesis of who we are as people and in direct contradiction to the ethos by which Texans live. Through our collaborative efforts, Texas will continue to assist victims, prosecute offenders, and provide long-lasting, meaningful change in the fight against human trafficking.
Texas’ commitment to combating trafficking serves as an exemplar of state prevention efforts, and will certainly go a long way in ensuring the safety of all those attending Super Bowl LI.