Co-authored by New York Hotel-Motel Trades Council President Peter Ward
Excitement continues to build around the Super Bowl coming to the New York area. The game at MetLife Stadium will be a boon for local businesses, with approximately $550 million expected to flow into the region's economy.
Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to the event.
The Super Bowl has been a magnet for sex trafficking in the United States. Each year, pimps and the women and men they've forced into prostitution -- including many underage sex workers -- descend on the city where the game is being played, hoping to generate new business from the thousands of visitors who travel to it from across the country and from around the world.
With the big kickoff just around the corner, it is imperative that all industries connected to the event do everything possible to stop this heinous, disturbing and illegal practice.
Fortunately, many have already committed to doing that. Law enforcement has redoubled its efforts, the travel industry is doing its part, and advocacy groups and religious leaders are spreading the word.
The hotel and motel industry has also taken the issue head-on. Working together, we've reached out to the hotel-motel workforce in New York City and New Jersey to launch a trafficking awareness campaign for tens of thousands of Hotel and Motel Trade Council members.
This critical undertaking includes a major education initiative that teaches hospitality workers to spot the signs of sex trafficking, and instructs them on how to report possible incidents to law enforcement.
Hotel and motel employees will be on the front lines during this year's Super Bowl in our fight against the sex-trafficking trade, and their eyes and ears will be a vital component in our efforts to combat it.
According to the Center for Court Innovation-John Jay College of Criminal Justice's joint comprehensive survey of commercially exploited children in New York City, 45 percent of those children reported being sexually exploited in hotels.
But managers, lobby staff, in-room workers and security and restaurant personnel should not be the only ones on the alert. The public should be vigilant as well.
Guests staying at hotels and motels can assist staff by reporting signs of trafficking that they may see while walking in the halls, observing the room next door, checking-in or checking-out, riding in elevators, standing outside or waiting in lobbies.
Below are tips from training the materials we've distributed to hotel workers, as prepared by the advocacy group End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), that can help everyone identify and prevent sex trafficking during the upcoming Super Bowl weekend.
A trafficker may:
• Pay in cash one day at a time
• Escort various men into his room and linger or watch the door until they leave
• Remove himself from operations by having adult females request rooms or pay the bills
• Be seen with a group of women (a stable)
• Not leave the victim alone
• Control all or most of the money and identification
Trafficking/victim interaction could include:
• Victim refers to trafficker as "Daddy"
• Trafficker uses derogatory slang
• Trafficker has openly threatens or physically assaults the victim
• Trafficker has inconsistencies in his stories
• Trafficker orders adjacent rooms
• Trafficker keeps late or unusual hours
Behaviors of a pimp:
• Speaks for the victim
• Pays in cash
• Requests rooms with access to exits
• Is seen with many young women, who exhibit signs of trafficking
• Uses inappropriate nicknames with the victim
• Waits while other men frequent the room
• Is distrustful of security personnel
• Does not let victim move freely on the property
Behaviors of a victim:
• Little or no luggage or clothing
• Seems disoriented
• Does not speak freely
• Dresses inappropriately for their age or the weather
• Uses inappropriate sexual language for their age
• Is seen with many older men
• Wears clothing that is revealing or consists primarily of undergarments
Words to listen for:
• The Life
• The Game
• Bottom B****
• Bottom Girl
Any of the above warning signs that should immediately be reported to hotel management.
According to ECPAT, 1.2 million children worldwide are the victims of trafficking every year; 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation; 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. each year; and 95 percent of all trafficking victims experience physical or sexual violence. Sobering statistics.
However, with the help the region's hotel-motel workers and guests, we can put up the biggest fight yet against Super Bowl-related sex trafficking, and even use this event as a model to combat trafficking throughout the year.
Please be alert and aware as you enjoy this year's game. As trafficking prepares to rear its ugly head in our area, there is no doubt that by working together, we can tackle this unspeakable horror and send a strong message to would-be traffickers that there will be zero tolerance for these crimes in New York.