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Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Stings Lead to Largest Bust Yet


In an effort to crackdown on sex trafficking, a national coalition of law enforcement agencies coordinated a sting operation during the Super Bowl that led to the arrest of more than 700 sex buyers and 20 traffickers or pimps. 
The National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI) ran from January 18th to Super Bowl Sunday, and it included 30 law enforcement agencies across 15 states.  
According to the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois, both the number of arrests and the participation level were the highest to date for Super Bowl operations since the initiative began 13 years ago.
"The ultimate goal is to eradicate the human trafficking aspect of prostitution," Arlington Heights Police Sgt. Chuck Buczynski told the Daily Southtown. "In the past, we arrested the prostitute, but we realized if we arrest the 'john,' you eliminate the customer base. And no customers, no prostitution."
According to the data, sex buyers are more often Caucasian, at least high school educated, and in many cases college educated, middle-aged-or-older men. Many are married and very few are unemployed. 
According to interviews of those who self-reported as being involved in prostitution, most started before they turned 21 and used drugs – most often highly addictive drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. A majority reported experiencing violence against them, including sexual assault as an adult or child. 
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart has been leading the effort for a number of years. He told the Daily Southtown that it's difficult to combat sex trafficking and prostitution because websites like Backpage.com continue to advertise it. 
"There are ways we could do this better, but there's been no interest in it (on the part of Backpage)," he said in a recent interview in the Daily Southtown. "We can't give up, but at the same time, it's definitely never going to be easy."
Although law enforcement agencies are cracking down on websites like Backpage.com, these perpetrators are finding other avenues to promote what they are doing. 
"There's been this big to-do with Backpage saying they've taken down this site," said Dart. He added that he was immediately skeptical of the company's statements and motives. 
"Sure enough, you go to their site and see they've taken down their escorts section but have basically moved all their ads over to another section of the website," he said. 
Law enforcement agencies are finding it necessary to employ the help of other organizations, like the Airline Ambassadors International program, which trains airline attendants to spot if a woman or young male are being trafficked. 
At their recent conference, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Sheila Fedrick was praised for saving a teenager who was on a flight with a man going from Seattle to San Francisco in 2011.
Fedrick said she noticed that the girl, who looked dirty and unkempt, was traveling with a much older well-dressed gentleman. She tried to engage them in conversation but the man was very aggressive. 
"I left a note in one of the bathrooms," Fedrick said. "She wrote back on the note and said 'I need help.'"
Fedrick notified the pilots, who then notified the police. 
The man was arrested as soon as they landed. 
"I've been a flight attendant for ten years and it's like I am going all the way back to when I was in training," Fedrick told WTSP TV in Tampa. "And I was like, I could have seen these young girls and young boys and didn't even know. If you see something, say something."

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