BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Super Bowl XLVIII is the biggest sporting event in the United States this year and will draw hundreds of thousands of fans to MetLife Stadium on February 2. In anticipation of the Super Bowl, Rockland County has braced itself for a surge as visitors who will spend money on food, hotels and other amenities.
However, county officials and law enforcement are also using the opportunity to curb human trafficking, which advocacy groups have warned will also draw traffickers hoping to cater to the massive influx of male fans.
To address a possible surge in cases, Rockland law enforcement will spearhead a task force made up of the Sheriff’s Department, Rockland’s regional police chiefs, the Center for Safety and Change, and the District Attorney’s Office.
According to Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco, the activities are part of a “coordinated effort” between local, state, and New Jersey police to monitor and respond to any potential cases, a push which includes training police in the identification and response to sex trafficking.
“We are working hand in hand with the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Fusion Center, with information going both ways,” Falco explained
Police have also engaged in community outreach by educating hotels and motels of potential signs of trafficking and providing them with a contact number where they can report suspicious activity. Falco added he also expects local police chiefs will keep open lines with school superintendents.
On the county level, Legislator Harriet Cornell is sponsoring a resolution supporting recommendations given in a recent NYS Bar Association report. The report recommends the reclassification of sex trafficking as a Class B Felony, immunity and possible monetary rewards for whistleblowers, reporter requirements for suspected child trafficking and expanded child protection and victim referral services for survivors of trafficking.
“This is Modern-day slavery and it occurs on our doorstep,” Cornell stated in a recent press release. “Efforts to prosecute and curb this inhuman activity should be a part of our consciousness, year round.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already heeded some suggestions outlined in the report by signing a state bill which provides 16 and 17 year olds the same benefits provided to younger survivors.
Though concern has been high, the situation is not guaranteed to overload police. In 2011, only a handful of arrests related to human trafficking were made by the Dallas Police Department, while only a slightly above average number were recorded in Indianapolis in 2012.