179 prostitution-related arrests made leading up to Super Bowl LVI, LAPD chief says

Law enforcement arrested 179 people for allegedly soliciting, facilitating and seeking sex services in the Los Angeles area during the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission Tuesday.

Eighty-nine people were arrested for alleged street prostitution and 70 were arrested at hotels and other locations where they had been allegedly been called for sex services, Moore said. An additional 14 people were arrested for allegedly facilitating or orchestrating "sex trafficking" and six people were arrested for attempting to buy sex services, according to Moore.

Four people who were identified as being victims of sex trafficking were put in contact with organizations that provide shelter and services to help them transition out of sex trafficking, the police chief said.

He told the Police Commission Tuesday that the Los Angeles Police Department worked with the sheriff's department and the Department of Homeland Security on focused enforcement against human trafficking, which he said mega events like the Super Bowl can attract. Law enforcement, LAX, advocacy groups and the California Attorney General worked to spread awareness about sex trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl, including through the "It's A Penalty" campaign, which began in 2014 to harness the attention around sports to spread awareness about human trafficking.

RELATED: LA County Sheriff Villanueva says Super Bowl draws human traffickers

Some critics have argued that the narrative about prostitutes and sex trafficking victims flocking to Super Bowl cities during the event is a myth. The claim was even rated as "mostly false" by the fact-checking website Snopes. But the event annually prompts large-scale, coordinated enforcement campaigns by local and federal law enforcement, along with community advocacy groups, aimed at cracking down on sex-trafficking and rescuing victims.

Law enforcement also focused its resources ahead of the Super Bowl on counterfeit merchandise. Moore said Tuesday that more than 1,000 items were recovered with a value totaling more than $120,000. Five people were arrested.

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"We do want to thank the Department of Homeland Security for their work, particularly Custom and Border Protection, that leading up to this event had been monitoring the cargo arrivals at the harbor area and has been making a number of large, high value seizures of counterfeit merchandise in advance of this past 10 days," Moore said. "We believe that that has had a detrimental effect on the ready availability of counterfeit merchandise."

Commissioner Maria Lou Calanche asked Moore if there were immigration arrests or deportations related to Super Bowl public safety and enforcement efforts, saying she had seen "rumblings on social media about (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at the Super Bowl."

Moore said there were no ICE immigration efforts "as part of the Super Bowl week."

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