Arizona businesswoman and philanthropist Cindy McCain used an appearance at Florida International University to draw attention to human trafficking in South Florida ahead of the upcoming Superbowl.
Speaking at the University's State of the World conference, McCain, who chairs the Human Trafficking Advisory Council at the McCain Institute, recalled a human trafficking awareness campaign she helped lead when Arizona hosted the big game in 2015.
“Our hotel industry was involved in it our tourism was involved in it, it was a statewide effort.” she said.
This year's Superbowl is scheduled to be played next month at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Authorities are bracing for a wave of out-of-town visitors by stepping up their prevention efforts. In South Florida, enforcement agencies including the FBI and Miami-Dade state attorney’s office are teaming up with the NFL to circulate anti-trafficking messages on public transit and social media, and to promote a new hotline to report suspicious activity, 305-FIX-STOP.
According to data from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, Florida is the number three state in the nation for human trafficking, while Miami-Dade sees more human trafficking than any other county in the state.
McCain, the widow of US Senator John McCain, told the crowd at FIU that awareness is the first step in getting rid of human trafficking.
“It begins with prevention and education, awareness and education," she said. "Because not all of these people who are being trafficked are coming across the border, they’re living in your neighborhoods.”
McCain said taboos around discussing trafficking have faded in recent years. “Human trafficking is now part of the conversation, where five years ago I could clear the room in a nano second if people knew I was talking about human trafficking.” she said.