- By JEFF LYTLE
- Naples Daily News
- Posted February 5, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.
Before the chest bumps, high fives and hot wings start flying later today, time out.
For a whale of a story.
Someone from Naples is working hard around Dallas, though by game time she might be napping on a couch — provided by a church group.
She will have been up most or all of the night on street corners.
As Anna Rodriguez and the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking that she leads did last year before the Super Bowl in Miami, they were planning to be out there before the big game scouting for children-turned-prostitutes.
Rodriguez and the coalition call it “identify and rescue.”
Their aim is to use their insights — actually, profiling skills — to spot underage boys and girls from the United States or elsewhere. Her team gets leads from missing children reports and websites for pictures of kids who will be in town and available. The ads are not particular about spelling and punctuation:
“SUpERBoWL BaBeS ArE N TowN’’; “Come To My Winter Wonderland’’; “Playful BLONDE sure to score a touchdown!’’; “R U ready 2 score a touch down with this dallas super all star!”
Then these grass-roots sleuths turn over their intelligence to the police.
“We have 224 volunteers doing street outreach since Monday,” Rodriguez said by e-mail on Thursday. “We are staying at a ministry home and sleeping on the sofas. The hosting agencies have provided us with meals thanks to the wonderful community members around the area.
“As of last night we have referred nine potential leads to our local law enforcement point of contact.”
Taking action on their own, risking confrontations with pimps, could be dangerous.
She did report one problem that was driving customary street traffic indoors. “The weather is not helping us,” she advised. “We have roads and sidewalks with ice. The temperatures are between 10 and 18 degrees — and windy. It is very cold!”
But, things can and will change. “We just started to see some activity picking up since the airport is now opened,” reported Rodriguez, who founded the coalition only a few years ago — when no one knew what she meant by human trafficking.
“We are expecting activity to pick up tonight when all the Super Bowl parties start.”
And you won’t hear or see about it on TV today.
But it’s out there, as confirmed by syndicated columnist/talk-show host Michael Reagan: “There has been a lot of media buzz about the thousands of prostitutes, strippers and pole dancers streaming into the Dallas area for the Super Bowl weekend. But what rarely gets reported is the alarming fact that hiding behind the push-up bras, false eyelashes and stilettos are children, some as young as 12 years of age, who are victims of human sex trafficking.
“Human trafficking is as much a part of Texas as cowboys and oil. The business flourishes because of the state’s geographic location, long stretches of interstate highways, international airports, numerous bus stations, the large shipping industry and its shared border with Mexico. This border is North America’s No. 1 supply site for young children used in sex and labor trafficking. In the last quarter of 2007, 30 percent of the calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline were out of Texas and 25 percent of all international victims certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were in Texas.”
Anna Rodriguez is in the right place.
Then again, wherever she is these days tends to be the right place.
The stuff she caught onto first and taught us about is everywhere.
Even the Super Bowl.