Authorities, cautious of the upcoming Super Bowl and other big events, are bringing human trafficking awareness to South Florida in hopes of preventing the crime this year, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
"Kids do get trafficked into high profile areas where there are major sporting events, major music events or even the Academy Awards...because of the crowds that come in and the money involved," John V. Gillies of the FBI was quoted as saying.
During the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami, a Hawaiian man was arrested in Miami Beach for buying a minor for prostitution, according to the paper.
There are currently 31 open cases of sex trafficking in the region, the newspaper said.
According to Sheriff Al Lamberti, Port Everglades and area airports allow for international access, which can increase the likelihood of trafficking.
Police warn that it is a difficult situation to escape because the victims can be threatened, kept isolated or their papers can be confiscated, according to the Sentinel.
Several bills in the legislature, supported by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, would keep sex trafficking criminals in jail for longer and require treatment for their victims.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a community forum in January to observe International Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Rundle said that the attachment the victims have with the people trafficking them is similar to the bond that exists in domestic violence cases.
"We see them as perpetrators, we see them as pimps, we seem them as exploiters, as profiteers,” Rundle said in an interview. “But that’s not necessary how the victims see them. They see them as my boyfriend, as my surrogate, as my protector. And they do not necessarily trust law enforcement.”