Officials target trafficking loopholes 

click to enlarge The proposed bill would be an anti-stimulus for the city's red-light zones. - COURTESY OF MDEZEMERY VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
  • The proposed bill would be an anti-stimulus for the city's red-light zones.
  • Courtesy of mdezemery via Flickr Creative Commons

A state senator said Friday he hopes to fast-track legislation that would make it easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on human trafficking in advance of the 2012 Super Bowl, which is expected to attract more prostitution to Indianapolis.

Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said Friday he would introduce legislation aimed at closing loopholes that have allowed some parts of the sex trade to go unprosecuted. Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and other officials joined him for the announcement, which comes just seven weeks before the NFL championship is to be held in Indianapolis.

State attorneys general have reported an influx of human trafficking has occurred in other cities that have hosted Super Bowls and other large sporting events. Officials are particularly concerned about under-age prostitution.

"We must be realistic and candid about the fact that organized criminals who exploit young women and children through human trafficking have gravitated to such gatherings in other cities," Zoeller said in a statement. "Recognizing that Indiana's existing statute is inadequate to this new threat and should be updated to close loopholes, we make this extraordinary request to the General Assembly to pass Sen. Head's bill within the short window before the Super Bowl."

Head said Indiana's laws are tougher than most states when it comes to human trafficking. But he said the state still earned a D grade from Shared Hope International, a leading sexual-trafficking awareness group.

"I am determined to help us change that during the upcoming legislative session," Head said.

The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Statehouse File by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

Editor's Note: NUVO followed up with Zoeller's office asking for more specifics on the particular loopholes that exist in current law. Public Information Officer Bryan Corbin kindly sent us the following response:

The bill that Attorney General Greg Zoeller recommended that Senator Randy Head has introduced in the Legislature would update the existing law in three main ways:

- First, the existing statute makes it a crime for a "parent, guardian or custodian" to sell or transfer a child for purposes of prostitution or sexual conduct. Since trafficking typically is committed by criminals who are unrelated to their victims, the statute needs to be broadened to cover any person who victimizes a child in this way, not just a parent or guardian; and the bill clarifies the wording to do that.

- Second, the bill would define the crime of "promotion of human trafficking of a minor" so that prosecutors would not have to prove "force or threat of force" against a child as an element of the crime committed in order to obtain a conviction for that crime.

- Third, it defines "promotion of human trafficking of a minor" to encompass both engaging a child under 16 in forced labor and/or involuntary servitude, as well as causing the child to engage in prostitution or participate in sexual conduct.(The larger issue of human trafficking involves more than sex trafficking, it also involves victims — sometimes people in other countries — who are lured with promises of escape from poverty and offers of jobs that turn out instead to be forms of forced labor or exploitation.)

The legislation would also make other technical changes to the existing statute.

The bill is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing Jan. 4.

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