Super Bowl fans greeted with End Demand (for paid sex) billboards in Texas

The Super Bowl of US football is approaching and I am pleased the media have largely not been disseminating the myth of the 40 000 itinerant trafficking victims who will soon descend. The police chief of the city of Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys, did try to get permission a while back to

ban convicted prostitutes from the entertainment district. The proposed exclusionary zone, which would have been the first in Texas, would have let Arlington officers arrest convicted prostitutes and their customers if they were found in the area without a permissible reason.

Since all buying and selling of sex is against the law there, this request might seem odd, but I suppose the wording would make arresting people easier. Permission was refused, but there have been all sorts of awareness-raising events about child sex slavery and now here are billboards warning men not to buy sex: Dear John, You Never Know! This Could Be You! These messages to End Demand have become a whole genre of public expression, this one belonging not only to the SHAMING variety (see Sevilla’s signs) but to the THREAT variety (see UK signs). Clients Beware.

Please do note a difference from the usual victimising of women who sell sex, though, as the story refers to prostitutes looking to cash in on big spenders from out of town. This is still the way a lot of people think about sex workers and at least grants them some agency in their own lives.

Arlington police using billboards near Cowboys Stadium to try to deter prostitution

15 January 2011, Susan Schrock, Star-Telegram

Arlington, Texas. There’s one souvenir that football fans probably don’t want from their Super Bowl Sunday experience — a police mug shot. Arlington police have posted mug shots of men convicted of or given deferred adjudication for prostitution-related crimes on electronic billboards near Cowboys Stadium to discourage would-be johns. The billboards, featuring four booking mugs and a message, are on Interstate 30 and Texas 360 at entryways to Arlington’s entertainment district. “We want people to think twice before they engage in that activity, because maybe they don’t want their face on a billboard,” Assistant Police Chief James Hawthorne said. More than 100,000 visitors are expected in the city for Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6.

The Super Bowl has brought a blitz of human-trafficking awareness events and enforcement activities to North Texas. Law enforcement personnel, volunteers and advocates have been concerned that the high-profile event will draw prostitutes looking to cash in on big spenders from out of town. The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force is teaming up with local officials to provide resources and training before the Super Bowl, which Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called “one of the biggest human-trafficking events in the United States.”

Arlington police have worked for years to combat prostitution around the entertainment district, which includes top tourist attractions such as the stadium and Rangers Ballpark. Recent efforts have included stings at budget motels and electronic message boards along roadways warning visitors about high-crime areas. The department had posted john mug shots online as part of its prostitution crackdown, but it had never bought billboard space, Hawthorne said. The space was bought with federal grant funds, police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said. The billboards also encourage residents and visitors to report suspicious activity.

“With prostitution, there is an element of human trafficking that exists. More than just addressing the criminal element, we also recognize the opportunity to rescue some of these victims who might be in situations where they feel trapped, helpless and unable to get out,” Hawthorne said. “We want as many eyes and ears on that issue so we can be effective in dealing with it.”

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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