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With Super Bowl Days Away, NJ Officials Continue Crackdown On Human Trafficking

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey officials insist the Super Bowl will not be the backdrop for sex trafficking.

As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, officials continued their rhetoric on Tuesday and were joined by 22-year-old Lexi Smith, a former sex slave.

The recent college graduate is from middle-class suburban Chicago, but said she was steered by her cousin into being sexually abused until she was 12.

“I remember seeing a concerned look in the eyes of my family, friends and teachers. But because no one knew what to say or how to say it, no one said anything at all. So it continued,” Smith said.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected in the area ahead of Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. Many believe the state’s sprawling highway system, proximity to New York City and diverse population make it an attractive base of operations for traffickers.

“One hundred fifty years after the Civil War, we have slaves in our country and all over the world,” former U.S. senator and state attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa said.

“The moment I was raped at the age of 6 everything changed. The true torment goes beyond their touch. Because the chains of modern day slavery are in the mind, not the hands and feet,” Smith said.

The state has implemented amped-up measures to crack down on sex trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl. Investigators are on the ground and online to prevent human trafficking, Putney reported.

“There are things that go on connected to the Super Bowl that are not things that we would want connected,” Gov. Chris Christie said.

Earlier this month, a New Jersey congressman said the huge sporting event seems to be a magnet for forced prostitution and sex trafficking.

“New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus. “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.”

There are scant statistics and much debate over how much sex trafficking increases during a Super Bowl or other large sporting event, but it’s been enough of a concern to prompt New Jersey and previous Super Bowl host cities to pay attention to it.

Danielle Douglas, a speaker and advocate who identifies herself as a sex-trafficking survivor, said any major sporting event attracts sex traffickers looking to make money.

“The Super Bowl is a huge, huge arena for sex trafficking,” Douglas said. Some visitors “are coming to the Super Bowl not even to watch football — they are coming to the Super Bowl to have sex with women, and/or men or children.”

Soon after the announcement that the 2014 Super Bowl would be held at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey officials set up training for legions of law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of sex trafficking.

New Jersey’s Attorney General said that they will use a command center along with undercover agents online and around the stadium to go after anyone who breaks the law, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.

“Degrade, dehumanize, and victimize at your own peril. Because you are just as likely to hook up with a pair of our handcuffs as you are with a victim of sex slavery,” acting N.J. Attorney General John Hoffman said.

Local houses of worship have been handing out fliers notifying congregants of warning signs, and truckers are being trained to look for people — mostly women but also men — who may be held against their will. Sex trafficking, to be prosecuted as such, must involve — unlike prostitution — not only a buyer and seller of sex but also a pimp or trafficker controlling the transaction, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)