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For the past few years, as January comes to an end, the media and government officials sound an ominous warning: Sex trafficking will be on the rise during the Super Bowl. Because of the sporting event, “the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks,” said Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, the site of this year’s Super Bowl. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, has called the Super Bowl “the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet.” As their logic goes, hundreds of thousands of fun-seeking fans will descend on New Jersey and New York this weekend. With the crowds will come an increased demand for sex, and, in turn, sex trafficking.
But as several publications have noted, data from the past few years doesn’t support this link—only four arrests were made during coordinated sweeps at the last three Super Bowls combined. Bradley Myles, the CEO of anti-trafficking nonprofit Polaris Project, which houses the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told Mother Jones that “we haven’t seen a great deal of evidence that there is a massive rise in trafficking during the Super Bowl,” adding that the hotline will “staff up modestly” but “doesn’t experience a major increase in calls.”