– by Larry Hawley, Defender
Super Bowl weekends in Miami have been remembered for Vince Lombardi’s final game, Joe Namath’s successful guarantee, Lynn Swann’s memorable catch, Jackie Smith’s memorable drop, Montana-to-Taylor, Steve Young and Peyton Manning’s first and only Super Bowl championship victories. They’ve also been remembered for various off-the-field criminal activities — from Stanley Wilson’s late-night cocaine binge to Eugene Robinson’s attempted purchase of an undercover police officer for oral sex. The National Football League loves Miami as a Super Bowl site for its abundance of entertainment options and its warm-weather climate during a cold winter in most of the country. Miami brings nightlife fun whether on South Beach or in Fort Lauderdale that can be harmless for tourists and residents alike. However, a drive down Biscayne Boulevard at 3am can offer vices that even athletes preparing for the biggest game of their lives fail to resist.
Miami’s criminal activity is not unique amongst metropolitan cities in the United States nor is its increased criminality during large sporting events (i.e. the Super Bowl, Olympics, or World Cup). Sex trafficking, however, is one crime more prevalent in Miami because of its attractiveness to potential buyers and its place as a hub for international business/immigration. Miami houses many immigrants (more susceptible to traffickers), both legal and illegal; some reside in unassimilated areas like Little Havana or Little Haiti, while others live in wealthy areas like Miami Lakes or Coral Gables. Business between US firms and firms in Latin America/Caribbean takes place in Downtown Miami/Fort Lauderdale which brings businessmen in and out of the cities on weekend trips with secret perks like massage parlors or street prostitutes.
Many victims of sex trafficking in South Florida are homeless or runaway children who fall into the hands of child predators, pimps and traffickers. StandUp For Kids Miami identified 2300 homeless youth in Miami-Dade county alone. Contributing to that number are missing foster children that should be monitored by the Florida Department of Children and Families, but have been lost over the last decade (See Rilya Wilson case, 2002). Urban poverty also contributes to trafficking in South Florida in communities such as Liberty City and Overtown where citizens have been priced out of expensive housing developments and were forced to live in shantytowns as late as 2007. Regardless of their background, one thing is clear: These children that end up on the streets are immediately targeted for the commercial sex trade. For these reasons, Kristi House, Stand Up For Kids, and KlaasKIDS Foundation will be out in the South Florida community on Super Bowl weekend to bring awareness of potential trafficking to area hotels, businesses, and citizens. By raising awareness of such a crucial issue, lives can be saved. Hopefully, Super Bowl XLIV won’t be the only memorable event from this weekend.