Due to recent terrorist attacks, the Texas Department of Safety elevated security measures ahead of the big game. However, protection of Super Bowl attendees isn’t the only safety concern clouding the major event.
Nonprofit organization Polaris Project reports:
Sporting and other major venue events where large groups of people descend on a specific region are a magnet for business of all kinds, including human trafficking.
Forbes estimated one million people will travel to Houston, Texas, to partake in activities surrounding the Super Bowl.
In collaboration with the Houston Police Department, it has been reported by Life Site News, that over 25 different groups are working to fight sex trafficking during the Super Bowl.
Houston police have implemented undercover police officers, and during a press conference Police Chief Hubert Arturo Acevedo, had a strong message for viewers. He said:
“Not here. Not in our town. Not in our city.”
However, one non-profit hopes to help victims before they touch down at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) was founded by former flight attendant Nancy Rivard, and the non-profit organization trains flight attendants to spot key warning signs while in-flight. Some of the signs are:
- Passengers who appear frightened, ashamed, or nervous
- People who are traveling with someone who doesn’t seem to be a parent or relative
- Children or adults who appear bruised or battered
- Someone who appears drugged
- If someone insists on speaking for the suspected victim or doesn’t let them out of their site
- If the alleged trafficker becomes defensive when questions arise
According to NBC, before the Super Bowl, Rivard hosted a two-day seminar in Houston to teach approximately 100 flight attendants what to look for and, more importantly, how to react.
Rivard stressed the importance of not trying to “rescue” the victim, which one trainer cited as the hardest part. Andrea Hobart works for Alaska Airlines and also trains other flight attendants.
She told NBC:
“One part of our training, and it’s the difficult part, but once we report it, we’re supposed to let it go…Even though it’s hard to let it go, you transfer it into the hands of the authorities and they’ll pursue the case.”
During a trip from Seattle to San Francisco, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Sheila Fedrick “instinctively” felt something wasn’t quite right with a passenger in row 10.
— Gabe #DreamActNow Ortíz (@TUSK81) February 4, 2017
According to NBC, the girl “looked like she had been through pure hell,” and raised suspicion when Fedrick noticed the contrast between the 14 or 15-year-old and the older man she was traveling with on the plane.
The man quickly became defensive when Fedrick tried to initiate conversation, so she left a note in the bathroom. During the flight, the girl wrote back, “I need help.”
Fedrick informed the pilot about the note, and police were waiting in the terminal upon landing.
The Alaska Airline’s employee isn’t alone in her experience. According to an official report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 2,000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims last year.
After a compelling Congressional testimony by 42-year veteran, Sandra Fiorini, Congress passed the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, which implements proper flight attendant training.
Aside from police officers and flight attendants, various advocacy groups have issued messages asking anyone attending Super Bowl events to speak up if they see something that seems off.