MANSFIELD -- North Texas residents who may know nothing about child prostitution can expect a blitz of human-trafficking awareness events during the next month, advocates and public safety officials said Friday.
It's because of the Super Bowl.
Law enforcement personnel, volunteers and advocates are concerned that scores of pimps will be following the football fans, bringing underage sex workers and leaving the state with pockets full of cash.
"This next 30 days is gold," said Linda Smith, executive director of Shared Hope International, an advocacy and research group that opposes human trafficking.
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"It is a chance for you to picket the clubs where these girls will be shown," she said. "This is a chance to make your voices heard. Please take this next 30 days seriously. Prevention always has to be our first goal."
A meeting Friday night was hosted by Traffick911, which hopes to establish a North Texas safe house for children identified as workers in the sex trade.
According to Dallas police officer Byron Fassett, head of the city's crimes-against-children unit, a major deficiency is the inability of governments in the region to provide long-term care for such children.
Dallas and Fort Worth have facilities that can house those children, often runaways from troubled homes, for a short time. But their problems are too complex for short-term solutions, he said.
"These kids have been through a lot, and it takes longer than 90 days to deal with their problems," Fassett said.
People at the meeting asked several times where they could obtain training and awareness materials. Deena Graves, Traffick911 executive director, pointed to the group's website. She encouraged people to sign petitions asking the Super Bowl Host Committee to take a public stand against human trafficking.
The major law enforcement training organization in Texas has mandated 40 hours of training for commissioned officers, said Sgt. Deven Pitt, a Fort Worth officer working with the federal anti-trafficking task force.
"Getting anything done before the Super Bowl is like pulling teeth," he said. "I agree our officers don't know enough about this. But the culture is changing. We're doing it as fast as we can."
The pimps are organized and well-funded, and they use technology to further their enterprise, said Chris Burchell, president of Texas Anti-Trafficking in Persons. Pimps have websites where they rate girls, cities and business environments and give other pimps information they can use to advance their businesses, Burchell said.
Online: Traffick911, traffick911.com
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752