Over 80 people were arrested and charged with sex crimes by federal, state and local law enforcement officials during this year’s Super Bowl as part of a national initiative to target sex trafficking. The initiative, Operation Innocence Lost, has the goal of particularly targeting sex crimes involving children.
During Super Bowl week, a total of 85 people were arrested in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and five children removed from circumstances connected to prostitution. Most of the arrests were related to prostitution or pandering, though two were for human trafficking. The FBI is targeting such crimes based on the belief that they are a gateway to other problems, such as robbery, theft, assault, and narcotics activity.
In charging for the crimes, authorities typically reserve the human trafficking statute for situations where men or women were believed to be forced into labor, particularly of a sexual nature.
Because prostitution and human trafficking typically preys on vulnerable populations, law enforcement is particularly aggressive in going after these offenses. In one case, for example, two Oklahoma women were approached and asked to be “escorts” during the Super Bowl, and told they would only have to attend balls or events. When they arrived in New Orleans, though, they were forced to work as prostitutes.
Obviously, sex crimes are a scourge and it is important for law enforcement to root out these activities from our communities. Equally important, though, is affording the accused their rights as criminal defendants. Without a check on police and prosecutorial activity, these rights are in danger of being trampled upon.
Source: The Advocate, “More than 80 booked in Superbowl crackdown on prostitution, human trafficking,” Allen Powell II, February8, 2013