TAMPA, Fla. - It is a massive sporting event commanding hundreds of thousands of viewers, but Super Bowl Sunday has a sad and seedy side: human trafficking.
A Tampa Bay area survivor was in Miami helping to rescue victims being sold for sex.
Kim Squires says when you are a victim in the sex trade, it seems impossible to get out. That's why she advocates for others trapped in that life of trauma through her work with The Priceless Journey.
"It's vulnerable little girls and women that have a lack of love, and attention, and affection,” Squires said.
“That can really lure them right into the arms of a trafficker that can promise them the basic necessities that they need in life."
According to the Polaris Project, the sex and labor trafficking industry is the second-largest criminal industry in the world. Large sports and entertainment events, with a massive influx of visitors, are often a magnet for this criminal activity.
"That’s big money,” said Squires. “You have tons of people that come into town that have money."
Last week, she joined hundreds of other volunteers in South Florida working to rescue human trafficking victims in the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV. They entered data into an app used by the FBI about every potential victim they encountered.
"We were actually going into the strip clubs, the brothels, the tracks, the traps, hotels, motels, all the places that you would find human trafficking," explained Squires.
Everyone is trained before they hit the streets to spread a message of love and tell the girls they meet how valuable they are.
"During that short conversation with the girl, it's then that she may come out and she may tell you that she’s being trafficked and she’s ready to be free."
Squires says multiple human trafficking victims were rescued before the big game; a powerful thing Kim is proud to be a part of.
"It also gives me hope to reach another one because there’s always one more," she said.
Once a human trafficking victim is rescued, he or she is connected with agencies that can immediately give them a bed and any other services they need - like drug detox and counseling.
Squires says The Priceless Journey and other groups are already gearing up for outreach when Super Bowl LV comes to Tampa next February.