SAN FRANCISCO, California — Steps of Justice, an organization that raises awareness of humanitarian causes, hit the streets here to inform residents about the danger that missing children will be trafficked. The nonprofit organization has been a YWAM Ships partner since 2011. Its initiative took place this past weekend in anticipation of Super Bowl 50, which was being held Sunday in the nearby city of Santa Clara. The sporting event is believed to be a prime business day for those involved in commercial sex trafficking.
In coordination with organizations No Traffick Ahead, KlaasKids and F.R.E.E. International, Steps of Justice visited 40 businesses (including hotels and convenience stores) to hand out at least 400 fliers identifying missing children. Phil Cunningham, who co-founded Steps of Justice with his wife, Amy, said that the reaction to the weekend initiative was mixed.
“Some were aware of the problem; they had heard of the connection between sex trafficking and the Super Bowl on the news, so that was good. Some had not heard of it and were shocked that stuff like that happens in the U.S.,” Cunningham said.
Human trafficking has been highlighted as a problem in the San Francisco Bay area recently. In October, local FBI agents participated in Operation Cross Country, which brought intensified scrutiny to alleged traffickers and their clients. That effort yielded the recovery of six adolescent victims and the arrest of eight traffickers. Fifty-two customers were also arrested. FBI special agent in charge David Johnson praised the effort.
“Selling children for sex is a heinous crime and will not be tolerated,” he said in a prepared statement. “Protecting children is one of the FBI’s highest priorities because every child deserves to be safe and sound.”
During a six month operation dedicated to combating trafficking leading up to last year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, more than two dozen underage victims were recovered and 68 traffickers were arrested. Cunningham said that despite these kinds of successes, much work remains to educate the public on how to help topple the trafficking industry. He proposed aspects of the problem that the general public should keep in mind.
“The next step would be to look for things that may classify as trafficking: Young girls or boys with older men who are not their dads or guardians, for example. Also, men need to stop looking at porn, realizing that trafficking takes place in that industry as well,” Cunningham said. “Finally, people need to pray for open eyes and freedom for the captives, even in our own country.”
Click here for more information about Steps of Justice.