U.S. Grand Prix raises concerns over human trafficking
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Economic activity is expected to spike during this weekend's Formula 1 race, but so is crime.
Some officials and local non-profits are most concerned with human trafficking—particularly those coerced into prostitution.
"When you have a lot of men, and a lot of men from all over the world come, it is an opportune time for them to seek sexual activity," Democratic State Senator Leticia Van de Putte said.
Three-hundred-thousand people are expected at this weekend's Formula 1 event. That's good for the economy, but State Senator Van de Putte is also worried about the dark side of major sporting events.
"The estimates from Austin P-D has been anywhere from one to 200 or so victims," she said.
During Super Bowl 45 in Dallas last year, law enforcement made 133 human trafficking arrests and rescued 8 victims.
Local nonprofits are ready to take in and assist any victims rescued by Austin Police.
Lifeworks has been working alongside the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking to prepare for Formula One weekend.
"Kids in foster care are at high, high risk for being sexually exploited or trafficked,” Kirsten McDermott with Lifeworks said. “Pimps are really smart so they know where to recruit from, so you have pimps hanging out by shelters."
McDermott says that in the United States, 1.6 million kids each run away from home and are approached by a trafficker or exploiter within 72 hours.
"The reality is with our domestic kids they could be standing outside on the street right now and we may just walk by and not notice the signs that they are being exploited," McDermott said.
While F1 may be an opportunity for Austin to make money, Van de Putte says human trafficking is not the type of economic activity we want in our community.
The Austin Police Department has created a task force to combat human trafficking. They say they will not address the issue until after the race.
Circuit of The Americas says they will rely on APD's expertise to handle the issue.