This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW ORLEANS, LA (KTVI) – Sex trafficking is right under your nose.  We`re about to show you why you might walk right by it without noticing.  Investigator Chris Hayes traveled to New Orleans with a team of volunteers looking to rescue sex slaves.  

A group of regular citizens travel to each Superbowl to investigate the dark side of sports tourism.  They are finding young girls, some who were reported missing.  They focus on Superbowls because that`s where men are buying little kids.

More on this story: Author Describes Super Bowl Sex Rescue

Brad Dennis called New Orleans combination of football and Mardi Gras, “The perfect storm. You have all of these elements come together.  That`s just going to drive the demand.”

Dennis is the search director for Klaas Kids. He came to New Orleans to rescue girls.  He said, “2,200 children are reported missing every day in the United States.  That`s an awful lot of kids on the streets for predators to take advantage of.”

He and Nita Belles are key members of a large group of volunteers and coalition members.  Split up into about a dozen teams, they hit neighborhood by neighborhood from New Orleans to Biloxi, MS.  They`re feeding intelligence to joint task forces in both states.  Biloxi Police Sgt. Aldon Helmert is one of the point men.  He said, “When we`re able to have citizens to be our eyes and ears, it provides us a great deal more resources.”

While tourists may believe a stripper`s smile is a sign she’s choosing the lifestyle, the trained advocates and police investigators know it could be a trick.

Sgt. Helmert said, “The outward appearance is selling a product, so the person realizes for them to be sold, they have to be attractive to the public.”

Then we witnessed it.  A stripper who seemed content, then a man grabbed her waist, hard.  We could hear her squeal. “Owwww.”  The man walked away with a wad of cash in hand.

Nita Belles saw it and explained, “That is a way of maintaining control and although she objected to it, obviously from her response she realized she had no recourse.”

The group narrowed in on a corner of the French Quarter as a potential hotspot for sex trafficking.  It surprised us because we were surrounded by lots of people and lots of police officers.

Potential signs include hurried girls struggling to make eye contact.  Then we found two girls that seemed to be trafficked.  One of them looked like a baby.

Belles explained, “Her face was young.  her body was young.  Her mannerisms were young. She was running around like a little girl would with her girl friend and taking those little, you know how child will walk and then get in a hurry and run those steps and she was doing that.”

We watched her talk to two men in this bar.  The men watched the girl while working their phones.  Then the young girl walked out alone, eventually into a car with Texas plates.  One of the men who was on a phone followed at a distance.  He got into the same car.  The advocates snapped photos, took down plate numbers and sent it back to command headquarters.

The volunteers gather intel, but stay out of way partly to protect the victims.

Belles explained, “They`re being watched and I don`t look like somebody that`s going to bring her pimp money so I would be a distraction or I could get her in trouble or maybe even killed.”

On the same side street we found a mysterious door, watched by a camera.  On the door you could read step by step directions, like “face the camera,” “pull door handle” and “do not allow anyone to walk in behind you.”  We soon saw two men exit that door to disappear into the neighboring liquor store.

Numbers from the operations are still coming in, but so far it led to at least 15 rescues.  One of the girls had been reported missing.

Nita Belles began her work after researching human trafficking for her book ‘In Our Backyard.’  And that’s also true here in St. Louis where we recently exposed a trafficking ring targeting suburban high schools.  

More on this story: Author Describes Super Bowl Sex Rescue

Keep up with investigative reporter Chris Hayes: