Stop Child Predators: “Parents should be on alert with ‘strangers’ in communities”
By Stacie Rumenap
National child safety advocacy group, Stop Child Predators, raised concern today with the expected increased usage of short-term vacation rentals during the Super Bowl warning parents in the Greater Miami area to take extra precaution to keep their children safe.
“With thousands expected to rent out homes to visiting Super Bowl fans, complete strangers will be infiltrating homes in neighborhoods across the region,” Stacie Rumenap, President of Stop Child Predators. “Parents should be on heightened alert for out-of-town visitors in their neighborhoods during the week leading up to the big game and speak with their kids about what to do if approached by a stranger.”
In Florida, human trafficking is becoming more and more of an issue. Just last month, an article in the Sun Sentinel reported that a 13-year-old girl who was sold as a sex slave in Tamarac, Florida. The article goes on to say “these encounters occurred at Airbnb rentals, police said. It was at one such rental that investigators managed to track down the runaway.”
Short-term vacation rentals being used for human trafficking is becoming a growing issue across the U.S.
According to a Capital Gazette article from last year, Sgt. Deborah Flores of the Maryland Police Task Force highlighted this issue by saying “AirBnb’s are now used for sex [trafficking].” Many others have warned of the dangers of short-term rental homes, something that not many are aware of.
Over the weekend, a 29-year-old man was reported being charged with human trafficking after an underage girl found in an Airbnb. The man “had been renting an Airbnb since the beginning of December and witnesses said they have seen several females come and go from that room, court documents stated.”
Another article from the [Minneapolis] Star-Tribune highlighted a story where an Airbnb guest was staying at a rental in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was charged with an attempted sexual assault of a seven-year-old living in the house the family rented.
Over the last year, there have been numerous stories in cities across the country of Airbnb rentals being used for prostitution, drug trafficking and out-of-control parties, which have led to violence and even shootings in residential neighborhoods. Human trafficking has also been found to be a serious issue with short term rentals across the country.
Rumenap said her group, Stop Child Predators, has started raising awareness of the potential negative impacts of short-term rentals. She said the new trend of commercial Airbnb hosts buying up residential homes and apartments to rent out as ‘mini-hotels’ has raised concerned with local community leaders across the country as neighborhoods cope with a weekly turnover of transients and strangers coming and going from their communities.
“Tools like sex offender lists are becoming obsolete as there is no safeguard in place to stop a child predator from renting a short-term rental property next door,” stated Rumenap. “Short-term rental companies have not done nearly enough to combat the unacceptable actions of their operators and guests. If they truly care about the surrounding communities and neighbors living adjacent to their rentals, they need to step up because their status quo hasn’t worked.”
According to a report by U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, major events like the Super Bowl generate an “increase in tourists seeking entertainment, including commercial sex, increasing the potential risk for exploitation and human trafficking. Traffickers are opportunistic hunters, and they see major sporting events and the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to sports venues as an opportunity for huge profits with very little risk of penalty or punishment.”
Stop Child Predators encourages neighbors of short-term rentals during Super Bowl Week to be on alert and call authorities if they suspect a criminal activity such as prostitution, human trafficking, public drunkenness, illegal drug usage or the endangerment of a minor is occurring in a rental unit in their community.
About Stop Child Predators
Stop Child Predators is a national child safety organization that brings together a team of policy experts, law enforcement officers, community leaders, and parents to launch state and federal campaigns to inform lawmakers and the public about policy changes that will protect America’s children from sexual predators. Stop Child Predators has worked to get passed versions of Jessica’s Law in forty-six states and continues to work to enact the legislation in Illinois, New York, Hawaii, and Idaho.