8 Children Recovered, 200 Sex Buyers Arrested in LA During Super Bowl 2022

For the 56th Super Bowl, Exodus Cry partnered with 15+ local anti-trafficking organizations (the SLAATC coalition) for a week of coordinated outreaches to those exploited in the sex industry throughout Los Angeles.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, 74 adults exploited in prostitution were assisted, eight children were rescued, 34 suspected traffickers and 200 sex buyers (also known as “johns”) were arrested in the 10 days leading up to the 2022 Super Bowl during a multi-city campaign dubbed Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. The SLAATC coalition partnered with the LA Sheriff’s department for this operation.

The idea that the Super Bowl is by far the biggest trafficking day of the year is incorrect because trafficking happens every day of the year, all over the country. It doesn’t suddenly spring up and then disappear.

Rumors sometimes circulate that the Super Bowl is the biggest human trafficking event in the world. There is no data to support that assumption. However, large sporting events like the Super Bowl draw massive amounts of people (and money) from out of town, to one specific area, thus creating the perfect opportunity for traffickers to supply the demand from tourists who want to purchase the bodies of women and children. For years, our outreach team has conducted outreach around major sporting events worldwide and, without fail, we always find exploited individuals, mostly women and girls, being sold.

Street Outreach

Exodus Cry joined After Hours, a local ministry focusing on street outreach in South LA, to pass out flowers and beauty gift bags and a card with their helpline number to exploited women on one of the oldest prostitution streets in the city. This area is heavily gang controlled and known for violence and trafficking.

According to the California Attorney General’s Office, the sex trade provides higher profits with a lower penal and detection risk than drug or weapons trafficking for gangs and other criminal enterprises.

While doing street outreach, several girls told us they had been brought to LA because of Super Bowl week from places like San Francisco, Las Vegas and Texas. It certainly seemed that traffickers anticipated an increase in business and brought their women to LA for it.

In 2020, Captain Scot Williams, commanding officer of LAPD’s 77th Street division, said this about the area in particular, “They are being forced to make a certain amount of money for the pimp, and if they don’t, there are consequences. Physically getting beat up, tortured, curling iron burns, burns with cigarettes, we’ve seen it all. The idea that prostitution is a victimless crime is just false. There are girls that are being forced into this trade out on the streets who are being victimized by violent pimps, and then again by the men who are looking to take advantage of their services.

Lines of johns in their cars filled the side streets as they perused their options like they were a drive-through line, deciding who looked appealing enough for them to buy.

Commenting on this same prostitution track, another detective recently said, “The trend I’m seeing is the girls are getting younger and younger. We have gotten as young as 11-years-old out here. Pimps have gotten increasingly aggressive, and the girls are in danger.”

As our teams drove up and down the track, there were multiple prostituted women (sometimes groups of 10-15) on almost every block, many of whom appeared to be very young, standing on the corners, sometimes with a pimp watching them from a close distance. Lines of johns in their cars filled the side streets as they perused their options like they were a drive-through line, deciding who looked appealing enough for them to buy.

In total, 8 street outreaches reaching 275 prostituted women and girls took place during Super Bowl week. Some girls seemed confused by the gift bags until they realized we were giving them for free and just wished to bless them and let them know we cared about them. The flowers were simple reminders that we saw their humanity and beauty and wished to connect with them women to women.

We kept conversations short as we knew their pimps’ eyes were on them at all times. A male figure, likely a pimp, approached our team member saying, “You better get out of here” and we swiftly left.

So many people judge us girls, but they don’t know our stories. They don’t bother to ask. You guys are actually stopping and caring and we see that. We appreciate that,” one young woman said to us.

During our several hours on the streets, we saw police driving down the main street; however, due to the policies of Los Angeles District Attorney, charges for loitering to commit prostitution (which importantly includes sex buyers and pimps) are unlikely be prosecuted.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva,“The lack of prosecutions is tantamount to legalizing prostitution in LA county by the decision of one man, DA George Gascon, and that is unacceptable.”

At Exodus Cry, we do not believe women/individuals in prostitution should be criminalized. Many of them are being exploited by gangs and pimps, as well as the buyers themselves. Instead, exit services and programs should be offered.

However, we do believe that pimps and sex buyers should be held accountable and prosecuted for their crimes of exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Research shows that more than 80% of women in prostitution are under third-party control or pimped or trafficked. We advocate for a partial decriminalization law, also known as the Nordic/Abolition/Equality model.

RELATED: The Sex Industry Wants to Keep You Confused About This and Should Prostitution Be Decriminalized?

Trafficking is happening on the streets of LA year round, and because of the policies put forth by the DA, sex buyers are lining the streets night after night and traffickers can seemingly operate out in the open. It is worth noting that in countries where prostitution has been legalized or fully decriminalized</a> (also known as the “Pro-Pimping Law,” that removes all laws against pimping, pandering, and buying and selling sex), prostitution and trafficking increases. There is a reason sex buyers and pimps want prostitution to be fully decriminalized.

Strip Club Outreach

Several members of Exodus Cry also joined Treasures, a survivor-led, trauma-informed organization located in Los Angeles, for strip club outreach. They provide holistic recovery opportunities and a supportive community for women in the sex industry and survivors of trafficking.

There are more strip clubs in the United States than any other nation in the world, with California placing third behind Florida and Texas for the most strip clubs per state.

So many people judge us girls, but they don’t know our stories. They don’t bother to ask. You guys are actually stopping and caring and we see that. We appreciate that.

The organization conducted 5 outreaches throughout the week, providing 817 women with gifts at strip clubs across Los Angeles. Treasures has spent decades building relationships with the clubs in the area, getting to know the women, the managers and the bouncers. Most of the clubs are receptive to the gifts, allowing the team to hand them personally to the women. Others require the gifts to be left at the front desk. It often depends on how busy it is on the night and the manager’s good graces.

A 2019 Treasures client survey of 71 women who have worked in strip clubs revealed that 65% identified as victims of sexual exploitation.

Sex Buyer Outreach

Exodus Cry also partnered with the EPIK Project, a group of men dedicated to disrupting demand and reaching out to sex buyers. 40 posters with a helpline for sex buyers wanting freedom and resources were placed in prostitution hot spots, 1,292 sex buyers’ purchase attempts were intercepted and a new LA chapter was launched during Super Bowl week.

The Los Angeles Anti-Trafficking Movement Is Growing

The unified outreaches organized by the SLAATC coalition was the first time Los Angeles had seen so many anti-trafficking and community groups work together for a full week to reach out to the exploited and offer them love, support, and—when desired—assistance in exiting this industry.

The 2028 Summer Olympics and the 2026 World Cup are to be held in Los Angeles, and this year’s Super Bowl outreach efforts laid an incredible foundation for future initiatives. We’re incredibly grateful to be part of united efforts to stand against trafficking and bring compassionate love, in person, to the places where our society’s most vulnerable women and children are sold.

You can be a part of setting people free from exploitation. Help bring freedom to victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation by donating to Exodus Cry today to fund future outreaches, expand education and provide trauma-informed therapy to survivors!

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