November 01, 2017 06:44 PM
As thousands of visitors prepare to head to Minneapolis for Super Bowl 52 next February, city leaders, law enforcement and nonprofits are using it as an opportunity to combat sex trafficking year-round.
It's a task city leaders are taking very seriously.
"Our message for anyone who thinks they can come for the Super Bowl and engage in sex trafficking is 'You will be caught, you will be prosecuted, you will be sorry, stay home,'" Minneapolis City Council member Linea Palmisano said.
A detailed plan was presented to city council members Wednesday as part of a committee meeting. It included perspective from police who will be actively engaged in investigative activities related to sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Sgt. Grant Snyder said his team is focused on spaces of the internet where solicitation activity is going on. But he told leaders police will also respond to any activities being conducted in-person - on the street.
"It allows us to go into that marketplace - posing as potential victim and interact with people who would be potential buyers," Snyder said during his presentation.
Once police identify individuals seeking sex, or that are involved in trafficking, they can find the victims involved. Nonprofit organizations like The Link then step in with services and support.
"All of this work is already going on," The Link executive director Beth Holger-Ambrose said. "One of the areas we work in is providing shelter, housing and supportive services to youth that have been sex trafficked between the ages of 12 and 24. That really will be our role."
Holger-Ambrose said they are planning to run emergency shelters and have outreach teams on the streets to talk with kids and teens who could be affected.
The Minnesota Women's Foundation is also supporting activities during the Super Bowl, but said during their presentation that the event is not singular in this fight.
Instead, it creates an opportunity to get people's attention.
"That concentration and that visibility brings us more support to guarantee that this issue is addressed during and beyond the Super Bowl," Lulete Mola of the foundation said.
Nonprofits, including The Link, are looking for donations leading up to the big game on Feb. 4. Holger-Ambrose said people can donate items to stock the emergency shelter, or help provide funding to expand services already in the works.
Updated: November 01, 2017 06:44 PM
Created: November 01, 2017 04:09 PM
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