Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, spoke during an overview of a public safety press conference for Super Bowl 53 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta Jan. 30, 2019.
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FBI: 169 arrested in human trafficking investigation leading up to Super Bowl

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“Sex trafficking is a problem that occurs every day of the year in every city and in every town in the country,” FBI Special Agent Taylor Dervish said. 

Throw in a major event like the Super Bowl — which brings more people, money and crime — and the likelihood rises for those willing to buy sex, Dervish said. Sex trafficking can be a large, commercial operation, but investigators with the Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force (MATCH) are also focused on other sex crimes, such as prostitution. 

“We’re looking at a sex act in which anything of value is exchanged,” Dervish said. 

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Among those arrested before the Super Bowl were 26 alleged sex traffickers and 34 who allegedly attempted to engage in sex acts with minors, according to the FBI. Nine juvenile victims of sex trafficking were rescued, including a 14-year-old. Nine other trafficking victims were also identified. The victims were all provided assistance and treatment, the FBI said. 

The names of those charged and the specific charges were not released. In addition to sex trafficking, prostitution, pimping, drugs and weapons charges were also filed. All of those arrested are facing state charges, the FBI said, though the investigations are continuing. 

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More than 25 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices, along with seven non-government organizations, participated in the operation, according to Kevin Rowson, FBI spokesman. The GBI, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security and police departments in Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fulton and Clayton counties were among the agencies involved.

“From January 23, 2019 to February 2, 2019, the operation’s goal was to raise awareness about sex trafficking by proactively addressing that threat during the Super Bowl and events leading up to the Super Bowl,” Rowson said in a press release. 

Arrests were also made in outer metro counties, including Coweta and Forsyth, Dervish said. 

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The FBI numbers were released a day after the GBI announced 21 people were arrested during a five-day operation that began Jan. 30. “Operation Interception,” based in Brookhaven, resulted in arrests for computer pornography, child exploitation and trafficking, the GBI said. 

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