Professor Jeffrey Blom’s decades of law enforcement experience prepared him to oversee a team of investigators who played a critical role in executing Super Bowl LVI security operations. He hopes to bring what he has learned from his experience investigating human trafficking to the next generation of investigators: his university students.
March 22, 2022
Professor Jeffrey Blom’s work investigating human trafficking has taken him across the country and around the world. He has played a vital role in operations from Alabama to Africa, and his work has recently taken him to the Super Bowl LVI in California.
Adjunct Professor of Investigations at the University, Professor Blom investigated human trafficking in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, which was held in Inglewood, California. After arriving in Southern California on the Tuesday before the big game, he spent the next few days and nights focusing on surveillance and covert gathering of raw data and information. Overseeing a surveillance and intelligence team, he worked with people from a variety of specialist backgrounds, such as military intelligence and law enforcement.
“It is understood that whenever you have a major event that attracts a lot of out-of-town visitors, it also attracts demand for certain types of services – and one of them is sex,” says Professor Blom, who has a law enforcement background and is a former police chief. “With the increased density of men in this area for a football game, people would bring women into the area to traffic for sexual exploitation to meet this increased demand.”
“It brought us together”
While developing sources in the field, Professor Blom and his colleagues visited local businesses, such as hotels, and spoke with owners and staff members to get a sense of what was going on. They collected information on a wide range of events and establishments – from high-end hotels to Super Bowl parties – to learn more and monitor what was happening. They then transmitted the information to the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Professor Blom and his colleagues were embedded in these communities, including, in some cases, certain dangerous areas. He says that, in many cases, the women they monitored didn’t know they were there, but they stayed close in case something happened. They gained people’s trust and learned to trust each other.
Professor Blom says one of the biggest challenges he and his colleagues faced was that their work required them to quickly learn how to work as a team, despite the fact that they had never worked together before. Each member of the team had a different background – they had different protocols to follow, methods of operations and reporting structures – so they had to quickly figure out how to work together with a unified command structure.
“We were mainly focused on children,” he said. “What united us was our focus on exploited children, and that brought us closer together.”
“Prevent exploitation from happening”
During their collaboration, Professor Blom says they were able to identify more than a dozen targets that they believe could be prime locations for trafficking. He explains that because following up on surveys takes time, they didn’t receive their results immediately, but because they generated multiple leads to follow up, he says the results were promising.
“The result showed that something like this can be done and it’s effective,” he said. “It showed that a unified effort to bring in specialists to do different things in controlled situations can have a big impact. This is the first time we’ve collaborated with the NFLthe Los Angeles anti-trafficking community and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and it was the first time everyone had a unified effort sanctioned by the NFL and the Los Angeles Athletic Authority.
Professor Blom says his experience as a police chief and building teams to manage event security, as well as his time leading multi-agency crime and drug task forces, have given him enabled him to be well-prepared for his role leading the Super Bowl trafficking investigations. He also continues to build on what he has learned in his work with organizations and agencies around the world.
After working in investigations for International Justice Missiona non-governmental organization, and helping with programs in nearly two dozen countries, Professor Blom has joined Love Justice International. A non-profit organization dedicated to fighting social justice, Love Justice International has a particular focus on combating human trafficking. Now its head of investigations and security, Professor Blom has worked for the organization for more than a decade, focusing on expanding its work on human trafficking intervention.
“I’m still working on trying to take the technology to the next level with the traffic,” he said. “I work with AI to help determine who is trafficked, before they are trafficked. We intercept victims before they are exploited. I worked on indicators that would lead us to a level high likelihood that these people are being trafficked, so that we can identify them before exploitation and before the trauma and harm is done.We want to prevent exploitation from happening.
“We just have to find them”
Professor Blom’s work has taken him all over the world, including Cambodia, Turkey and Greece. He also brings his experience to his students at the University, sharing what he has learned and teaching them about the important work being done in the field.
After working with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office During a recent major labor trafficking operation, Prof. Blom discussed with his students many of the challenges he and his colleagues faced, and he encouraged them to explore how they would handle these situations.
During the fall semester, Professor Blom spent four weeks leading police training and operations in Malawi, near the Tanzanian border. He shared photos and videos with his students, and they discussed his classroom experience.
“I try to bring real-world experience to my students,” he said. “Knowing what they’re going to need to move forward, I try to give them that baseline, that foundation and get them to think critically. I go far beyond what I am capable of. I always try to make class discussions as relevant as possible, bring real videos and photos when I can of operations and results, and involve them in strategies.
Committed to ending human trafficking, Professor Blom is also conducting research that he hopes will lead to more effective ways to identify victims. before they are exploited in the first place.
“We know that people are recruited, deceived and displaced illegally, so we just have to find them,” he explains. “My research focuses on behavioral, psychological and cultural indicators, and we work at transit stations, bus stations, airports, water ports and land borders to intercept and identify these victims.”