With the Superbowl expected to bump up tourism in New Jersey, the state is cracking down on prostitution, and especially when sex workers are there under force.
At truck stops they’re known by many names. Sleeper Leapers. Bunk Bunnies. Lot Lizards.
But the state of New Jersey has another name for them: Victims of human trafficking. As part of its crackdown, the Attorney General’s office is if offering training sessions specifically for truck stop owners.
“If the demand for commercial sex increases, there’s an uptick in that, then there’s more opportunity for traffickers to take advantage of that uptick," said Kathy Friess, coordinator of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force.
She recently led a training for truck stop operators in New Brunswick, explaining that New Jersey’s highway system acts like a buckle connecting the northeast to the rest of the country.
“Our location is really key to us being prime for human trafficking because we’re easy in and easy out. And it really comes down to that, ” Friess said.
Truck stops have taken steps in recent years to make them less welcoming to the prostitution industry, according to Tom Liutkus, spokesman for Ohio-based Travel Centers of America and PETRO truck stops. This includes installing better lighting, using training materials provided by Truckers Against Trafficking and hiring off-duty police officers as security guards.
Liutkus attended the state training.
"Every time I attend one of these events, you learn even more," Liutkus said. "Like these sporting events…that it is a form of tourism. And you know the Super Bowl comes into town and now there’s a whole rash more of activity to quote “entertain” the guests of the big party that’s going to happen for the Super Bowl.”