MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year. But behind the glamorous events and high-profile visitors, comes an illicit industry few people discuss openly. It’s something for which law enforcement officers have been preparing for the past year.
“They should be aware that this is happening everywhere,” according to a detective with the Miami Beach Police Department’s human trafficking unit who spoke with Local 10 News but asked not to be identified on camera.
She said major events like the Super Bowl bring the high rollers to town, along with an increase in sex workers and those trying to take advantage of the fun-seeking crowds.
“The reality is the people that are making money are not the people that are working. So and that’s what people need to focus on,” she said, adding police are focused on finding victims brought to South Florida and forced to have sex for money.
But they’re also focused on pursuing anyone looking to commit crimes against those coming into town to enjoy the big game.
“It’s not always under the guise of prostitution anymore,"she said. “Now it is just like I said. A guy meets a girl in a bar, he takes her home … and then he’s lucky if just his Rolex is gone."
She said people need to be aware sexual encounters, paid or otherwise, can lead to dangerous scenarios. What’s more, the supposed perpetrators are often victims themselves.
“This is like the new trend in prostitution instead of having sex with ten guys, bring me home a watch," she explained, “so a lot of them are being forced to work and they’re being forced to steal.”
It’s an issue Local 10 News has reported before. The detective said some cases have been close calls.
“Our greatest fear is that somebody is going to die from this,” she said.
This week has already been busy according to those familiar with the local sex trade.
“You have a lot of high-end escort women that are working the hotels, private NFL parties,” John Rode, a former police officer turned activist who founded the non-profit Global Children’s Rescue, said.
He used a simple web search to turn up countless sites advertising women for sexual encounters.
“We definitely see an increase in women advertising online,” Rode said. “A lot of the ads are saying they’re only here for a short time, in town for a few days. … This particular female is a 929 area code. So she’s not local.”
Rode personally arranges meetings with women with the goal, he said, of looking for anyone who seems underage and also to confront hotel management he believes often turns a blind eye to a glaring problem.
The Miami-Dade County state attorney’s human trafficking task force has warned this activity is already here and while they can’t comment on current investigations, the public should know they are happening.
“We’ve got special operations that we’re doing to target perpetrators, but we’re also doing some special operations focusing on Johns, because let’s face it, if no one is buying, no one is selling,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
Police want people to remember it’s illegal to purchase sex and to be proactive when it comes to your own safety.
“Be careful who talks to you, who comes up to you,” the detective said. “And if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Investigators want anyone who sees something suspicious to call police, they said there’s no need to give a name or get involved in the case. Witnesses are important, but sometimes tips can matter much more.