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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.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 4, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Hospitality and the return to work in Tampa

On Thursday, February 4, Axios Tampa Bay reporters Selene San Felice and Ben Montgomery hosted a Smart Take conversation on the hospitality industry, economic recovery and the return to work in Tampa, featuring Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Tampa Bay Economic Development Council CEO Craig Richard.

Mayor Jane Castor discussed how Tampa has approached public health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • On how the city is supporting its residents during the pandemic. "There's a moratorium on any evictions...In addition, we are working in collaboration with career sources on workforce development. That is one of the larger elements of my administration's platform."
  • On how existing development projects were able to safely progress during the pandemic: "We hired a medical director at the city and individuals had to be screened before they could come on the job site. They had to wear masks, they had to socially distance and there had to be hand washing stations throughout those locations. ..I'm very proud to say, out of the thousands of workers that we were able to keep employed, we had very few COVID-19 cases at those locations."

Craig Richard unpacked economic development in Tampa and the impact it has on the 2021 Super Bowl.

  • On the challenges of economic development during the pandemic: "Tampa Bay's challenges aren't unlike any other big cities challenges right now: the challenges that we're facing are primarily pandemic related. All the obstacles and barriers that are associated with that it difficult to bring in clients and prospects and actually show them the fine city that we have."

Axios Senior Vice President of Client Partnerships Jon Otto hosted a View from the Top segment with 'Dinner Done!' co-founder and CEO Audra Nasser, who discussed the food industry in Tampa.

  • How having a digital presence impacted their ability to operate during the pandemic: "It also gave us inventory controls and that turned out to be very critical in our ability to immediately begin offering curbside pickup to our customers. Additionally, we used a lot of social media like Facebook and Instagram to continuously communicate with our customers."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

5 Tampa Bay businesses get perfect scores for LGBTQ inclusivity

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index identified five local companies with perfect scores, per the St. Pete Catalyst.

Scoring a perfect 100 were Raymond James Financial, Clearwater’s Tech Data, Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, and the law firms Carlton Fields and Holland & Knight.

Tampa Bay lawmakers try to stave off rise in evictions

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

State lawmakers seeking to lower the eviction rate introduced two bills on Monday:

  1. Requiring more mediation for residential eviction cases.
  2. Allowing tenants to seal court records in eviction cases if their eviction was due to pandemic-related circumstances.

Driving the news: Since the pandemic started, thousands of families in the Tampa Bay area have found themselves unable to pay rent and at risk of eviction, reflecting a national trend.