Feb 3, 2021 - News

The Super Bowl highlights the dark side of Tampa Bay's sex trade

An anti-trafficking poster in Miami ahead of its Super Bowl last year. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images

The Super Bowl has become, well, the Super Bowl of anti-human-trafficking campaigns.

What's happening: Tampa saw 71 arrests last month in a trafficking sting, mirroring similar mass arrests in Miami and Atlanta ahead of their Super Bowls.

  • Organizations like Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners have been working to educate the public on how to identify and report trafficking before the big game.

The big picture: Despite the persistent claim that the Super Bowl is a perennial trafficking event, there's not necessarily any evidence that it drives the crime more than any other mass gathering.

  • Kimberly Overman, the vice-chair of Hillsborough County's Board of Commissioners, agreed with that assessment — but noted that Florida has the third-highest trafficking rate in the nation with Tampa Bay as a specific problem area.
  • Partnering with the NFL gives her advocacy surrounding the topic a much bigger platform to sustain itself for the rest of the year, she said.

The other side: Sex Worker Outreach Project of Tampa Bay advocate Brie Daniels said sex work does not actually increase around the Super Bowl, but argued that prostitution stings do.

  •  "[Police] only do concentrated stings around major events and then count it as a higher inflow around [them]," she said.
  • "People pushing the human trafficking narrative count us all as exploited people or victims without any facts."

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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