It's very difficult, if not impossible, to pin down how prevalent human trafficking is in the Garden State, but we do know it's happening.

Flickr User Thomaswanhoff
Flickr User Thomaswanhoff

Big crowds attract heartless criminals, who prey on the young and vulnerable, and this February New Jersey will see huge crowds when MetLife Stadium hosts the Super Bowl.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ) will host a series of school visits to raise awareness about human trafficking. During his time as New Jersey's Attorney General, Chiesa made cracking down on human trafficking a top priority.

"This is modern day slavery," explains Chiesa. "It involves people coming from other countries who are enslaved here. It involves people from New Jersey and other states being enslaved. Whether it's in the sex trade or as domestic servants or in businesses, it's happening all over the place."

Part of Chiesa's awareness campaign includes, Project Stay Gold, a group that has launched a "Not on Our Turf" campaign drawing attention to the increase in human trafficking around large economic events, including the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey.

"With the Super Bowl coming here we know based upon our experiences in Indianapolis and Miami and Dallas that there's a huge spike in human trafficking around the event," explains Chiesa. "We will talk about recognizing trafficking, reporting suspected trafficking, and ways young people are contributing to end this practice of modern day slavery."

The upcoming Super Bowl is just one reason New Jerseyans need to know about the threat of human trafficking. Chiesa says the Garden State provides unfortunate and unique opportunities for those who would perpetrate this crime.

"Because New Jersey is so densely populated (and) because it has such a diverse population it is especially vulnerable to having traffickers try to hide here and try to blend in," says Chiesa.

"Traffickers target vulnerable, young people, sometimes using peers, other times through online social media. These criminals use threats, lies, and blackmail to lure potential victims. Raising awareness among a targeted population will help our young people avoid becoming victim to this heinous crime."

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