Z, as she calls herself, was 13 when she first met a man named Roman Thomas on the streets of Miami. He was 26, but she didn’t realize how much older he was at the time. He asked if she wanted to hang out. When she agreed he took her to the Motel Shores at Biscayne on 105th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. Within hours she was being sold to strangers for sex.1
Z is one face of sex trafficking in Miami. “‘When you think of human trafficking… the thought is of other kids from other places,’ said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. But Fernandez Rundle said of the majority of the cases she sees coming through her office, ‘The victims are our girls from our schools.’”2
The task force that Fernandez Rundle is a part of for Miami-Dade county found that the majority of victims, nearly 67 percent, were local residents and about 40 percent were minors.3
Miami, where SuperBowl LIV will be played, has long been known as a hotbed of trafficking in both drugs and sex. This reputation inspired Miami Vice, the TV show that followed “two undercover detectives… through the mean streets of Miami.”4 Those streets soundtracked with a vibey Jan Hammer soundtrack may not fill our screens anymore, but the reality of sex trafficking rages on in Miami.
“Former police officer-turned-private investigator John Rode said [about Miami] ‘You can actually hook up with a prostitute faster than you can get a pizza delivered to your house.’”5
A reporter from the Biscayne Times said it this way, “We’re in Miami’s red-light district! Neighborhood prostitutes, strip clubs, sex stores, motels that rent by the hour, and ease of access to drugs and quickies have brought this notoriety. Residents in the central corridor may clamor to gain recognition as Little Haiti, but I’d say the time is ripe for the Upper Eastside to petition for the title Little Amsterdam.”6
But Miami is fighting to take its city back. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that over a ten year period, Miami ranked fourth for number of calls per capita.7 And we all remember the Miami Herald breaking wide open the Jeffrey Epstein story. We applaud the Miami Herald and the citizens of Miami who are raising their voices, speaking out against this injustice.
Miami’s metro area of 5.56 million is the 8th largest in the country.8 The Super Bowl will bring more people into Miami, many of those will be men. “And wherever men gather in large numbers, pimps and traffickers expect demand for sex buying to increase,” Helen Taylor, our Director of Intervention recently remarked. More men = more possible sex buyers.
The teams will be taking a message of love and hope to the streets, strip clubs, and bus stations… offering a hotline and a gift bag.
The Super Bowl is an amazing opportunity to unite with organizations from across the nation to impact a city. We are excited to be partnering with 611 Network, a national anti-trafficking network with a local presence in Miami, who are hosting this initiative. Together with 611 Network, Exodus Cry and others will be training teams and deploying daily outreaches during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
The teams will be taking a message of love and hope to the streets, strip clubs, and bus stations in Miami to reach out to those being sexually exploited, offering a hotline and a gift bag. Cyber patrols (where men intervene with prospective sex buyers at the point of sale) will also be a key focus this year. There is an increasing effort within the wider anti-trafficking movement to reach men and disrupt the demand for illicit sex.
We will also be hosting a 24/7 prayer room, in collaboration with Miami House of Prayer, asking God for light to overcome darkness and for justice to come to the oppressed and exploited in Miami. After conducting or assisting with outreaches and outreach events for the past 12 years, we wholeheartedly believe in the importance of prayer as a key part of fighting the evil of sex-trafficking in our world.
Last year, in partnership with Atlanta Dream Center, Out of Darkness, and 25+ other organizations during SafeZone Atlanta, we reached 5,000 sexually exploited individuals. On top of that, 169 people were arrested during an 11-day, FBI-led human trafficking sting.9
In Miami, a joint task force has already begun strategic initiatives led by the state attorney, federal officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office, FBI and Homeland Security, and representatives from the Women’s Fund. Ads reading: “Buy Sex. Be Exposed” encourage the public to report suspicious behavior to the hotline 305-FIX-STOP.10
The stage is set for the week leading up to the Super Bowl in Miami. The city is geared up. Our teams are prepped. Now we wait expectantly for those moments of encounter with the sexually exploited and sex buyers of this bustling beach metropolis.
One of the messages of hope that we will be speaking to the sexually exploited…‘Don’t blame yourself… It’s not your fault.’
For Z, her story ended well. When Z’s mother found out where she was she alerted the police, who arrested Thomas, her pimp. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail. And Z, now 19, is mother to an 8-month-old girl, and a strong voice against this injustice.11
One of the messages of hope that we will be speaking to the sexually exploited in Miami is Z’s message to survivors. “It’s the same message she still tells herself. ‘Don’t blame yourself… It’s not your fault.’”12
Those we’ll meet on the streets of Miami need empathy and resources. As we’ve seen in so many previous sporting event outreaches, we’re confident that as we engage these women and girls, many stories like Z’s will be transformed.
If you would like to join us in Miami here is the link to the information for the week.
If you are unable to join us in person please join us in praying for the encounters with both the sexually exploited and sex buyers, as well as for the task force in Miami.
Photo Credit: Ryan Spencer
- 1. Viteri, Amy. “South Florida Sex-Trafficking Victim Tells Her Terrifying Story.” WPLG, WPLG Local 10, 22 May 2019, www.local10.com/news/2019/05/22/south-florida-sex-trafficking-victim-tells-her-terrifying-story/.
- 2. Wright, Gregory. “Miami-Dade County Has a Human Trafficking Problem, Numbers Show.” The Miami Times, 8 Feb. 2017, www.miamitimesonline.com/news/local/miami-dade-county-has-a-human-trafficking-problem-numbers-show/article_bd6d872a-ee1a-11e6-b608-dfddf8a94191.html.
- 3. Ibid
- 4. “Miami Vice.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 16 Sept. 1984, www.imdb.com/title/tt0086759/.
- 5. Weinsier, Jeff. “Private Investigator Says Getting Prostitutes Faster than Getting Pizza Delivered in Hialeah.” WPLG, WPLG Local 10, 5 Feb. 2016, www.local10.com/news/2016/02/05/private-investigator-says-getting-prostitutes-faster-than-getting-pizza-delivered-in-hialeah/.
- 6. “Welcome to Little Amsterdam!” Biscayne Times Online, www.biscaynetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1786%3Awelcome-to-little-amsterdam&catid=81%3Aupper-eastside&Itemid=1.
- 7. “National Trafficking Hotline Ranking of 100 Most Populous Cities .” Human Trafficking Hotline , 2017, humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/100%20Most%20Populous%20Cities%20Report.pdf.
- 8. “Miami, Florida Population 2020.” Miami, Florida Population 2020 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/miami-population/.
- 9. Taylor, Helen. “From Motel Encounters to HIV Clinic: Inside the Super Bowl Outreach.” Exodus Cry, 27 Feb. 2019, exoduscry.com/blog/general/from-motel-encounters-to-hiv-clinic-inside-the-super-bowl-outreach/.
- 10. Dolven, Taylor. “Miami Unveils Campaign to Crack down on Human Trafficking Ahead of Super Bowl 2020.” Miamiherald, Miami Herald, 6 Nov. 2019, www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article237033664.html.
- 11. Viteri, Amy. “South Florida Sex-Trafficking Victim Tells Her Terrifying Story.” WPLG, WPLG Local 10, 22 May 2019, www.local10.com/news/2019/05/22/south-florida-sex-trafficking-victim-tells-her-terrifying-story/.
- 12. Ibid