At Dallas Super Bowl, High Attention and Low Arrest Totals on Human Trafficking

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Before the Super Bowl in Dallas, Harriet Boorhem, president of Promise House children’s shelter was contacted by the Dallas Police Department. Boorhem said that the detective asked to use Promise House as a shelter for underage prostitutes that were picked up during the sporting event.

Boorhem said that based on that conversation, they were expecting thousands. The number they actually got was zero.

“We didn’t get any,” Boorhem said. “It seems the number was really inflated…I don’t know how it got blown up so big.”

Warren Mitchell from the Police Media Relations Unit of the Dallas Police Department confirmed that the number of human trafficking arrests made during the Super Bowl was low.

“We made one arrest of an adult male for Trafficking of Humans (Adult) and Attempt Compelling Prostitution [of a 14-year-old minor],” Mitchell related in an e-mail to Youth Today. “The one arrest was connected to…two recovered victims, [an] adult and [a] minor.”

That result defied the expectations of many. On Wednesday Nov. 17, at a meeting of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott labeled the Super Bowl “one of the biggest human-trafficking events in the United States.”

The KlaasKids Foundation reported 23 direct contacts with potential commercial sexual exploitation victims during the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. The organization also reported recovering six missing children and “intervening in four potentially dangerous situations, removing five girls from potential recruitment or exploitation by pimps.”

“As with any major event, persons who want to victimize others will try and exploit the opportunity provided by the increased number of people,” Mitchell said.

According to the Polaris Project, Texas has one of the highest percentages of calls to their Human Trafficking Hotline. The problem is, according to Owens, this doesn’t necessarily mean that human trafficking is more prevalent in Texas.

Mitchell said the High Risk Victims Unit handles approximately 200 to 250 high-risk victims each year. Of that, approximately half (100 to 125) are identified as being victims of some form of domestic trafficking.

Currently Owens, along with Northeastern University and other researchers from the Justice Policy Center, are studying cases of human trafficking between 2000 and 2008, trying to identify the problems that come with trying to identify how much of the crime is actually going on, and where it most often occurs.

According to Mitchell, the High-Risk Victims Unit of the Dallas Police focuses on identifying possible victims through chronic runaways and repeat victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.

He also said that the Dallas police dedicated additional resources to their regular unit and procedures to finding victims at the Super Bowl.

“In additions to the specialized unit, the Dallas Police Department is in the process of training all officers in the department on the High Risk Victims Model and the dynamics of domestic trafficking of children,” said Mitchell.

 “There’s a lot of task forces in Texas and a lot of awareness there,” Owens said. “And they are doing a great job on the investigation side.”