by Gordon Haas
Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and with an estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide, it is a prominent issue for all communities. A rapidly growing criminal industry second only to drug dealing and equal in scope to arms dealing, New Jersey is a prime location because it’s a major national and international transportation and shipping corridor.
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month and January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. These dates are now official law in New Jersey, thanks to the strong advocacy of the N.J. Coalition Against Human Trafficking, facilitated by the Community Relations Committee (CRC) of Greater MetroWest NJ, and the strong support of Governor Chris Christie and New Jersey legislators. In fact, this year, New Jersey was rated by the Polaris Project the number one most improved state in the U.S. for having a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, punishes traffickers, and supports survivors.
This January is especially significant as it directly precedes February’s Super Bowl 2014, which is taking place in the Meadowlands. Human trafficking is often associated with large sporting events.
The Super Bowl attracts tens of thousands of fans to the host city, and millions of television viewers, making it the most watched broadcast each year. But it also attracts a sector of violence, organized criminal activity that operates in plain sight without notice and includes human trafficking in both the sex and labor industries. Our efforts should not be misconstrued as vilifying the National Football League, but rather acknowledging that unacceptable behavior can and does happen around major sporting events.
Best Practices Implemented to Deter Human Trafficking at Super Bowls
Statistics began to be collected at international sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup in 2004 and at the Super Bowl in 2011. Since then, efforts to tackle and deter this crime have become a regular part of Super Bowl preparations at the state level.
Last year, the Indiana Attorney General published results of anti-trafficking efforts surrounding the 2012 Super Bowl including: strengthen law enforcement and victim services; raise community awareness through outreach, media, and trainings; engage civil society — local and national advocates, community organizations, churches, and colleges; conduct an Anti-Demand Campaign; outreach to groups at risk; establish protocols within the travel and tourism industry, including local hotels; distribute victim recovery materials; and strengthen laws to facilitate the prosecution of traffickers and the rescue of victims.
In preparation for Super Bowls, law enforcement, attorney generals, the interfaith community, and community advocates have worked together to deter trafficking and raise awareness about the issue.
What You Can Do/Mark Your Calendars
The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, comprised of 90 diverse organizations and led by the CRC, invites you to participate in a number of community mobilizations in January that are currently being organized. These include:
· End Trafficking Shabbat — All Greater MetroWest rabbis have been sent a packet inviting their congregation to hold an End Trafficking Shabbat during January. The kit, prepared by the CRC and Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey, an advisory council of Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ, includes a number of education and action ideas.
· January 15, 7 p.m. — N.J. Human Trafficking Awareness Day Program will be held at BergenPAC. Watch for more details.
· January 26, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. — S.O.A.P. UP New Jersey, at the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus. The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking is partnering with S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) to help support victims of human trafficking by approaching motels and offering them free bars of soap with the Human Trafficking Hotline phone number. The project will be carried out by volunteers during a one-day training and mobilization effort. To sign up, visit www.soapnj.eventbrite.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
· February 2 — Join the HT Super Bowl Challenge, a social media campaign during the game. Watch for more information.
· March 28, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — We Were Slaves: the Jewish Community Unites Against Sex Trafficking program, 901 Route 10 Whippany NJ. Watch for more details.
Specific information and program details to come.
Raising awareness about human trafficking is not a one-time, one-event cause. Rather, promoting human trafficking awareness, especially during a national event such as the Super Bowl, allows for widespread community attentiveness to the issue.
The problem of human trafficking in New Jersey will not end with the Super Bowl. It is the hope that the NJ Coalition’s awareness campaign will help to prevent such trafficking in New Jersey and when it does occur, to reach out to victims, providing them with aid and resources.