The Super Bowl Prostitution Hoax: Indianapolis Mobilizes for an Epic Battle With an Urban Legend

Indianapolis is bracing for war. It’s Super Bowl week, after all. Time for the Annual Invasion of the Hookers, which promises to be as harrowing as the Ottoman Empire’s advance on Crete in 1647, though with considerably more nudity.

Yes, one of America’s great urban legends is again being trotted out just in time for kick-off: The notion that legions of out-of-town prostitutes descend on whichever city hosts America’s Big Game.

This time around, it’s Indiana attorney general Greg Zoeller who’s milking the hysteria for political gain.

Zoeller is riding the momentum of a hoax that’s reignited before every major sporting event, be it the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Olympics or the NBA All-Star game. Alarming figures are pulled from the mist of imagination, where extra zeros apparently come free with every purchase. Anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 hookers will be coming to town! Hide the women and children! And perhaps the more effeminate men as well! You know, just in case!

It’s a myth that’s been playing to sell-out crowds for more than a decade. But there’s been trouble at the box office in recent years. No one gets too excited about garden-variety prostitution anymore. As a culture war wedge, it’s so 1912.

So promoters of the panic have changed their advertising. Instead of adult harlots, the siege now consists of underage girls.

This year it’s Indianapolis that’s marshaling its defenses. Seven hundred cabbies have been trained to spot the victims of pimps. Nuns have been dispatched to hotels to lecture staff. Special soap—more than 16,000 bars, reports the Indiana Statesman -- is being placed in hotel rooms, stamped with phrases like “Are You Witnessing Young Girls Being Prostituted?” In the event that the answer is yes, national hotline numbers are conveniently being stamped on bathroom walls.

Not to be left out, the Indiana legislature rammed through an emergency bill to keep the state safe for the game. Sell a child under age 16 for sex in the Hoosier State, and you’re now looking at up to 50 years.

The legislation passed unanimously in both houses. Not a single elected official questioned the need for the bill—or asked whether it might make more sense for the state to provide money for the treatment of actual victims of underage prostitution.

In the words of the Muncie Free Press, lawmakers “managed to outlaw underage prostitution in Indiana just in time for the Super Bowl on Sunday.”

Villains of America, be forewarned.

“Our information is that it’s typical for an increase in demand for commercial sex at a big event,” says Abby Kuzma, director of consumer protection for Zoeller’s office. “Our information is that it’s all about the money. They are willing to go wherever the money is.”

You don’t have the heart to tell her her information is wrong. Very wrong.

Said Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thompson after the 2008 Super Bowl: “We may have had certain precincts that were going gangbusters looking for prostitutes, but they were picking up your everyday street prostitutes. They didn't notice any sort of glitch in the number of prostitution arrests leading up to the Super Bowl."

Said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis after the 2009 Super Bowl: “We didn't see a huge influx in prostitutes coming into Tampa. The arrests were not a lot higher. They were almost the same."

Last year’s panic came courtesy of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Maybe he didn’t have access to Google, so he didn’t know any better. Or maybe – just maybe -- he decided that a little false delirium was a small price to pay to see the two most glorious words in the English language – “Greg Abbott” – prominently featured in headlines for months before the Dallas Super Bowl.

Abbott organized task forces with the FBI, ICE and Homeland Security. He raised an army of volunteers from religious and women’s groups. All were on deck to rescue the thousands of underage girls who’d be sold like ground chuck throughout Big D.

Word was that 100,000 hookers could arrive – and that as many 38,000 would be underage. Even flight attendants were trained to spot trafficking victims -- which shouldn’t have been difficult, since it would have taken 57 Boeing 747s to fly them all to town.

As politicians and activists continued to crank up the fear factor, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy had had enough. “This is urban legend that is pure pulp fiction,” he said in January 2011. “I would refer you to your local law enforcement officials.”

Sure enough, when it was all over, cops had managed just 105 arrests metrowide, mostly by rousting the local talent. Twelve women faced penalties no greater than for speeding tickets. Only two arrests involved human trafficking.

Cops in Germany, Canada and South Africa offered similar testimony following the World Cup and the Olympics. But these men and women who deal with prostitution every day aren’t the ones crying wolf in the first place. The hysteria most always comes from the professionals of manufactured outrage: politicians.

The federal government now spends $80 million a year to combat human trafficking. Almost none of that money actually goes to offer help to trafficking victims. Instead, former president George W. Bush created task forces in 92 cities. Each only averages about two sex cases a year.

That’s because, statistically speaking, most trafficking has nothing to do with sex.

The vast majority involves forced labor, people indentured to pay off smuggling fees. Hence, the lion’s share of traffickers aren’t pimps, but New York restaurateurs, Kansas meatpackers, and large-scale ag companies from Florida to California.

If cops wanted superior hunting, they’d do better to raid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce convention. But that would entail throwing down with the captains of industry, who just happen to own private militias of lawyers. Far easier to challenge the invisible pimps, where there’s no risk of getting nicks in your sword.

That’s the path chosen by Zoeller. He’s not exactly a seasoned crime fighter or man of the street. He made his bones as an aide to Vice President Dan Quayle, then worked the Beltway Republican patronage system before returning to Indiana.

He apparently doesn’t have Google access, either.

Zoeller has been widely cited in the Indiana media for calling the Super Bowl the largest human trafficking event in the country. He championed the new law cracking down on the sexual sale of kids. He’s appeared at press conferences with Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, urging men to sign pledges foregoing the purchase of young girls. His office has trained more than 2,000 people to spot trafficking during the Super Bowl.

But while his preparations for the onslaught have come with ostentatious flair, our hero hasn’t accomplished much on the ground. So far, the biggest hooker bust came in suburban Greenwood, where a hotel sting netted three arrests.

One woman was from Texas. Detectives suspect she showed up for the Super Bowl.

Still, one might think Zoeller’s den is festooned with the scalps of battle, since his hometown annually hosts one of the largest sporting events in the country, the Indianapolis 500. His office has also co-chaired one of Bush’s anti-trafficking task forces since 2005.

But his point woman on trafficking, Abby Kuzma, can’t recall a single human-trafficking arrest at the Indy 500. Either racing fans – mostly poorer, country people – prefer to get amorous with Golden Corral hostesses, or America’s pimps have been calling in sick every year.

Maybe this Super Bowl will be different. Maybe Zoeller’s army will finds legions of prostitutes writhing in the Hilton kiddie pool.

For the sake of a lasting national panic, one can only hope.

After all, with attorneys general, state legislators and soap-dispensing nuns all on the team, it sometimes seems pointless to cry foul. Even the NFL’s McCarthy seems resigned to the idea that America’s political class is simply too invested in the Super Bowl hooker myth to make any protest worthwhile.

Despite the fact that he was dead right about last year’s game in Dallas, when asked for comment this year McCarthy offers only the following:

“The National Football League supports strong human trafficking laws. Additionally, we work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to insure that the Super Bowl is a safe environment for the host community and the fans who enjoy the game and the celebration.”

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
sPrudence
sPrudence

The cops don't see hookers because they don't want to lose their own shake-down racket. If you haven't seen an influx of hookers with those in "The Life" you must have been in the wrong place as this is urban fact not urban legend. As for Kiddie Sex, you must live in quite the cloistered world. As the Boca and Jupiter phony crime records have proven, don't ever trust documents prepared by government officials especially when it proves their incompetence. See unemployment numbers from the Labor Dept. and check them with reality and tell us you believe them and there isn't any inflation!

prostitution, license it, tax it and regulate it.

Youhavegottobekidding
Youhavegottobekidding

Would this article have anything to do with the fact that Village Voice Media, the owner of Broward/Palm Beach New Times, also owns backpage.com, one of the largest online advertisers of escort services?

As the author refers to others not having "google" in an effort to disparage the research behind their claims, I'd offer a simple, easy, internet friendly challenge. Take the time to count the ads for prostitution touted by your parent company for the week before and weekend of the superbowl.

Wait two weeks until after the superbowl and then do the same. Publish your results. Surely an internet research and google master such as Mr. Kotz should have no problem doing so, however, I have posted a link in case he has trouble getting start. For a more informal approach, just take a casual look at how many ads state "Here for superbowl weekend only".http://indianapolis.backpage.c...

I have nothing against the oldest profession in the world, however, I find it funny that the author (whose parent company profits from advertising prostitution) is using arrest statistics and the opinion of the commisioner of the NFL (whose parent company profits from a good image of the superbowl). Of course those arrested for plying the streets are going to be locals who have already staked out their spot and know the territory, but unless there is an organized sting, those who ply the increase in prostitutes offered on backpage.com will not make there way into the arrest statistics.

Not Printable
Not Printable

Male hookers - and the Republicans will be all over it

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

Its just another republican boogey man they trot out for all of this.  Just to make people nice and paranoid there is all this scary stuff under their bed.  All so they can justify all the cash they blow on idiotic things.  Heres an idea, stop treating this paranoia and instead use that money to help the actual victims.  But there is too much money used to warehouse whoever they figure is guilty of whatever delusion they are currently fostering.Its just sad they keep reusing the same thing over and over.  This is just like their delusion that gay marriage will end up destroying the planet for some reason they cant explain.

FQS9000
FQS9000

While understanding the New Times’s deep and abiding desire to blame snow, mosquitoes, body odor, dirt and uncooperative dates on the feared, fabled, and utterly dastardly radical right wing nut jobs, this farce has it’s origins in liberal land.

The first enabler is our Congresscrud parasites.  If they weren’t so busy trying to buy our votes with our money, there wouldn’t be any funds for the anti-hooker do-gooders to be chasing.

The second enabler is the pervasive belief in the stupidity of women by the political class and liberals.  Men don’t have any problem hooking up with underage women.  Those are the cutest, easiest to impress and least tricky.  Sadly, very few of them are hookers.  However, liberals are passionate in their belief that only the very young are silly enough to be peddling their butts (older legal age women would never do such a thing) (har, har, har, and again har).

So Congress pays for this and politicians think they can preen in front of liberal women and get fawning head lines.  Which you have abundantly proved.  The solution to this minor problem is articles like thins one, but the villains should be the dumb ass reporters who are writing stories claiming that underage prostitution is a problem ANYWHERE.   

Jadesgems
Jadesgems

@Youhavegottobekidding Well, just read the same story from Advance America. They are a Christian Political blog.  The tell the same story of the big prostitution scam. What this really amounts to is the corrupt IMPD trying to brain wash those who are ignorant into thinking prostitution is a huge criminal activity and it is loaded with sex traffickers.  The truth is because they want the money to keep funding their crazy prostitution arrests. It's all about the money folks and not about anything honorable.  Busting prostitutes are easy, fun and less risk to the officers.  Believe me, IMPD states in their SOP they CAN have sex with prostitutes then bust them. This is being done in Indianapolis.  Talk about a crime!! This is rape!

 
Loading...