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January 19, 2018

Feds urge Philly to watch for human trafficking during NFC Championship game

Events Human Trafficking
Eagles Raiders NFL Christmas Lincoln Financial Field Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Fireworks explode prior to an NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field between the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eagles fans and residents of the Philadelphia area are being advised to remain alert for possible signs of human trafficking during the weekend run-up to Sunday night's NFC Championship Game.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a memo on Friday afternoon asking the public to be aware of unusual signs of exploitation or forced labor — including sex work — in and around Philadelphia.

“We need members of the public to help law enforcement identify predators and victims of sex trafficking, especially this weekend,” U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen said. “Tragically, large events like the NFC Championship football game that draw out-of-town crowds also lure sex traffickers, who prey on the most vulnerable members of our community. We must all work together to prevent these crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.”

The link between human trafficking and large sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics has increasingly generated debate over whether there's truth to the connection, particularly as it relates to sex trafficking.

A recent Huffington Post article counters that human trafficking and forced labor are about more than sex. Labeling their prevalence at major events a myth serves to minimize the overall danger.

Unlike the Olympics and the Super Bowl, Sunday night's game between the Eagles and Vikings is a single event generally limited to the day of the game. Those attending the game primarily will be from the Philadelphia area or from Minnesota.

Still, in recognition of January as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, federal officials are advising fans to learn and be aware of the signs that may indicate someone is being held against her or his will and trafficked for sex:

• They do not hold their own identity or travel documents.
• They appear to suffer from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade, or frighten.
• They are not permitted to speak for themselves.
• They are extremely nervous, especially if the victim’s “translator” is their trafficker.
• They are not allowed to move about by themselves and seem to have little understanding of where they are.

Anyone who witnesses a potential sex trafficking incident is asked to report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.