Christie praised for battling Super Bowl sex trafficking

A congressional panel on Monday highlighted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's efforts to prevent sex trafficking at Sunday's Super Bowl, a welcome change of focus for the embattled Republican governor.

Major sporting events are a prime venue for sex trafficking, and America's football finale is no exception: More than 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 championship game, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Authorities have learned to fight back, however, and the efforts of Christie's Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness were highlighted during a congressional hearing chaired by fellow New Jersey Republican Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has put in place a robust anti-human trafficking plan,” said Smith, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel on human rights.

“For example, his Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness has stepped-up efforts to combat trafficking at the Super Bowl, distributing flyers to emergency medical services, fire department, law enforcement, and other emergency care professions so that these front line professionals will know when to be concerned that someone is a trafficking victim and how to respond appropriately,” Smith said. “The transportation and hospitality training concept has proven straightforward, effective — and it is catching on.”

Christie, a potential candidate for 2016, has been on the defensive following revelations that his office deliberately caused a four-day traffic jam on a busy bridge in apparent political retaliation against Democrats. He is also under investigation over potential misuse of federal funds for the Superstorm Sandy recovery. This is the first time the Super Bowl is being played in New Jersey, and a well-run game could generate some much-needed positive headlines for the governor.

Monday's hearing highlighted recent efforts at the federal level as well, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Blue Lightning training program for airline workers. So far, Delta, JetBlue, Allegiant and North American Airlines have signed up. Amtrak has also been training its employees to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking since 2012.

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