Minnesota law enforcement is expecting a jump in solicited sex during the Super Bowl and is gearing up to crack down on trafficking before, during and after the big event.
On Wednesday, with less than 100 days before the Feb. 4 game, Minneapolis police presented plans for coordinating efforts with about 20 other law enforcement agencies on stings to arrest traffickers and buyers, and to share information in a new online portal.
"A lot of planning has gone into this," Minneapolis police Sgt. Grant Snyder told City Council members.
Minneapolis is leading these efforts, but sex trafficking is also an issue in suburbs and rural towns statewide. That's why, from St. Paul to St. Peter, police have shifted resources to go after buyers to reduce the demand for buying sex.
While Snyder said the Super Bowl will lead to a "sizable increase in demand" for sex, experts say claims that it's the biggest sex trafficking event are exaggerated. Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center say it will likely draw more sex ads like other big events such as the fishing opener.
In Houston, site of the 2017 Super Bowl, police arrested 217 people in sex trafficking-related incidents during the 10-day Super Bowl period, about 100 of whom were johns, according to local media reports.
In Minnesota, leaders hope to create a sex trafficking plan that can be a model for other Super Bowl host cities and leverage attention from an estimated 1 million visitors.
An 80-member group, led by Hennepin and Ramsey counties along with the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, unveiled a plan last summer. The NFL is contributing, but no one has said how much. While other organizations are also working on sex trafficking prevention before the Super Bowl, this is the only campaign backed by the NFL.
The plan includes adding six shelter beds for juveniles and 10 beds for adults in prostitution. Street outreach teams will be increased. And the Mayo Clinic is developing a "gift registry" in December where people can donate items to shelters.
Bus drivers, hotel workers, Minneapolis city staff, Mall of America staff and all 10,000 Super Bowl volunteers are getting special training on how to identify sex trafficking. And Minneapolis will include details about how to prevent sex trafficking with short-term rental certificates. "There's really no place in the metro that's off-limits," Snyder said.
Law enforcement will conduct stings 10 days before the Super Bowl and throughout the 10-day event, even tapping new technology such as bots to respond to texts with johns.
A new report analyzed Minnesota sex buyers this year and said that, based off a national study, an estimated 380,000 men — 14 percent — may have bought sex at least once.
And this week, a campaign began in the Twin Cities called "I Am Priceless." It's from Minneapolis-based The Link, which provides services and housing for sexually exploited youth, and has billboards, ads and a mural targeting 10- to 14-year-old girls and boys. The message: "My body is not for sale."