• Super Bowl Sting: 33 arrested for sex trafficking in just 4 days

    By: Alexis Stevens | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - With the Super Bowl just days away, federal law enforcement officials announced Wednesday they have arrested 33 people in metro Atlanta for sex trafficking. Authorities said they had also rescued four victims as part of the operation.

    Advocates have warned that large sporting events, like the Super Bowl, are attractive to those in the sex trafficking trade. The crime can surge when lots of free-spending travelers are around.

    The 33 arrests came during the past four days, according to Nick Annan, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge. But Annan declined to discuss specifics of the cases, citing the ongoing efforts that will continue throughout the week.

    “We plan to continue what we’re doing,” Annan said.

    [READ: More than 1M to arrive for Super Bowl, several agencies tapped to keep everyone safe]

    Last week, Homeland Security assisted in a joint operation in Douglas County using undercover officers, social media sites and local hotel rooms, the Douglasville police department said Wednesday.

    Sixteen people were arrested, according to police, and the youngest person involved was 17. The timing of the crackdown was related to the Super Bowl, police said. 


    TRENDING STORIES:


    Investigators have also found more than 2,000 counterfeit items, according to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security. Neilsen didn’t discuss details about the phony items found. But police have warned fans about fake tickets being sold.

    Although the NFL puts special holograms and other features on tickets that help distinguish real ones from the fakes ones, most people won't be able to tell the difference. Police warn ticket-buyers to purchase only from a reputable source.

    [READ: From Atlanta to the Super Bowl: Sean McVay's parents say son is 'living out dream']

    More than 40 local and state law enforcement agencies, along with 25 federal agencies, are assisting with security for the Super Bowl. Officers and security members have been visible throughout the downtown where events have been held.

    As part of the massive security operation, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration conducted low-altitude helicopter flights over downtown Atlanta and areas around Buckhead earlier this week and those will resume Sunday before the game.

    [READ: From cowhide to laces: How is an official Super Bowl football made?]

    Key law enforcement leaders, including Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields, spoke about security efforts during a press conference Wednesday afternoon the Georgia World Congress Center. Shields said security planning for the Super Bowl began over two years ago, and so far, everything is going as planned.

    Shields encouraged those heading to the game or other Super Bowl events to plan ahead and rely on public transportation.

    [READ: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sidesteps Colin Kaepernick questions]

    For those who insist on driving, secure valuables ahead of time, she said. Call 911 or alert an officer to anything suspicious. But above all, Shields encourage fans to have fun.

    “This is a fantastic city,” Shields said. “We really want people to come and just have a great time.”

    Next Up: