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Monday, July 15, 2024

Bill to combat human trafficking moves forward

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Because of concerns that Indiana could see an influx of human trafficking during Super Bowl week and other sporting events, a state legislative study committee has acted to fast-track a bill Attorney General Greg Zoeller recommended to combat human trafficking.

Last week, the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission voted 11-1 to recommend passing the bill that would close loopholes in existing law. The study committee’s recommendation means the proposed bill could be introduced and heard in the state Senate soon after the Legislature reconvenes in early January. Some public safety advocates have urged the Senate and Indiana House to swiftly move the bill to early passage prior to the week of festivities leading up to the Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.

In other states that hosted Super Bowls and other large sporting events, state attorneys general have reported an influx of human trafficking as organized criminal groups within the commercial sex industry promoted underage prostitution to a willing clientele of out-of-town visitors.

Zoeller said, “As proud as all Hoosiers are to be hosting the Super Bowl and other major sporting events, we should be realistic about some of the problems that are associated with the thousands of visitors from all over the world. Time is not on our side and it is important that the Legislature pass the human trafficking bill into law so it is on the books before the next large wave of revelers rolls into our state.

“We need to send a clear message that Hoosier hospitality does not welcome those who would be involved in human trafficking and anyone threatening our children. I am pleased that the study committee has thoughtfully reviewed this proposal and laid the groundwork so that the Legislature will be poised to take action in January.”

Federal law defines human trafficking as inducing a commercial sex act by force, fraud or coercion, or when the person induced is not yet age 18. It also includes the recruitment, harboring or transportation of a person for labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion for purposes of involuntary servitude or debt bondage, among other things. According to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (2010), between 14,500 and 17,500 men, women and children are illegally trafficked into the United States each year.

The preliminary bill the legislative study committee recommended would make it a Class A felony – punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison – for any person to sell a child for purposes of prostitution or sexual conduct. Existing law covers parents and guardians only. Also, the bill would more broadly define the promotion of human trafficking of children so that prosecutors would not have to prove force as an element of the crime committed in order to obtain a conviction. The next step is for the preliminary legislation to be formally filed as a bill at the start of session.

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