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Do big events fuel human trafficking?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – There’s an increased opportunity for human trafficking when major events take place. That’s according to a law professor at the University of Utah.

“Wherever there’s humans there can be trafficking,” said Erika George, Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law and the Interim Director of the Tanner Center for Human Rights.

George says there’s usually trained professionals mingling amongst the crowds at large events looking for potential victims.

“It’s usually not blatant and out in the open, but those people who are well-positioned to be able to detect are often working closely in hospitality, transit, accommodations,” explained George.

With the Super Bowl just days away, law enforcement officials in Atlanta arrested multiple people on sex-trafficking charges. 

“It can happen, it is happening. There were 33 arrests made in Atlanta, just today, in advance of the Super Bowl,” George replied to ABC4’s Brittany Johnson when asked whether the increase of sex-trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl was a real issue or a myth.

“I don’t think it’s a myth. I know there have been contesting reports but quite frankly, if you were a trafficker, why would you not go to a large event? — Unless you feared detection and higher surveillance,” she explained. “I can’t measure increase, but there’s increased opportunity for those who would exploit others.”

It’s not just sport events. 

George says there’s increased opportunity at conventions, art events and the Sundance Film Festival, to name a few.

“I’m not trying to say that Park City is crawling with prostitutes right now. That I don’t know. What I do know is that when you have conditions that are created by having large populations of tourism and travel, and expectations of entertainment, part and parcel of that has been adult entertainment and sex trafficking,” George explained.

The law professor says the only way to disrupt it is to detect it.

“When you see something say something and maybe trust your gut about that,” George stated.

According to George, another issue at larger events is labor trafficking.

“Even from the construction and setup of facilities. Human Rights Activists have documented violations in mega sporting events where you’re building new stadiums,” said George.

“There are documented incidents of violations occuring. These aren’t invented. These are documented, these are real people, real lives, and we have the power to reduce those risks,” she told ABC4 News.

The conversation about human trafficking continues Wednesday at the University of Utah during a symposium and workshop. Click here for details.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888.

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