Sixteen teenagers being sold as prostitutes--some reported missing by their families--were rescued by authorities in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, the FBI announced Tuesday.
Police from cities including Yonkers in New York and Atlantic City in New Jersey also arrested 45 people who potentially face prostitution-related charges. The FBI said some of those arrested said they traveled to New Jersey from other states with the intent to capitalize on the large number of people visiting the New Jersey-New York area for the Super Bowl.
The arrests and recovery cap a two-week-long law pre-Super Bowl law enforcement effort as authorities face pressure from human rights groups to crack down on human trafficking.
“High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.”
Some of the recovered youths were from overseas. Overall, 70 people, including the 16 teens, received assistance from authorities, including referrals to healthcare and shelters.
During the last 11 years, the FBI and its partner agencies have recovered more than 3,100 children and helped convict 1,400 people in human-trafficking cases.
New Jersey alone has about 30 human trafficking cases a year, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice recently announced. New Jersey and Washington are the only two states with "perfect" human trafficking laws, according to the Polaris Project advocacy group.
Last year’s Super Bowl operation in New Orleans led to 85 arrests. In 2012, nearly 70 arrests were made in Indianapolis.