“Have you been threatened if you try to leave," anti-human trafficking posters read.
Thirty-three arrests for sex trafficking set the tone for this year’s Super Bowl in Georgia and activists are working to bring awareness to the crime, said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“The Super Bowl is an opportunity for us to talk about it, but it's something we have to be vigilant about 12 months out of the year. It's about making sure that the thousands of men and women who work in our hotels understand what the signs are. It's about making sure our police officers understand what the signs are. It's about making sure the public is informed," Bottoms told CNN.
Posters line the walls of airports and stickers marked with emergency information are plastered on more than 60,000 bars of soap in hotels surrounding the area as part of the S.O.A.P. movement, "Save our Adolescents from Prostitution."
Fliers read, “Are you being forced to do anything you do not want to do? Have you been threatened if you try to leave? Text HELP to BE FREE 233733."
Nita Belles, the founder of an Oregon-based anti trafficking group called Our Backyard, said, “The Super Bowl does not increase trafficking, sex buyers increase trafficking.”
However, an estimated 40.3 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world, 71 percent of these are women and girls, while 25 percent are children, the International Labor Organization reports.
Although human trafficking is a constant issue, both the FBI and the National Human Trafficking Hotline (which is operated by Polaris) report a slight increase in reports during larger, “localized, public” events like the Super Bowl.
An increase in arrests charged with prostitution also follows and organizations like Polaris say this is due to the police’s heightened attention to this sort of crime which naturally grows during grand events.
Social groups are urging police to refocus their attention from those buying and selling sex to those being trafficked for sex.
Arrests of pimps running underage sex rings are reported at the National Football League’s championship game almost every year, with girls being trafficked from as far away as Hawaii to hook up with clients via the internet, hotels and strip clubs.
Last week alone, 16 people connected to a ring of trafficking were arrested in Atlanta, Douglasville police say.
“The city of Atlanta is committed to ending human trafficking of all people,” said Lance Bottoms in a statement.