INDIANAPOLIS - A bill that would strengthen Indiana's laws against human trafficking won the approval of a Senate committee this morning. Because large sporting events are associated with human trafficking, law enforcement and victim-advocacy groups have urged the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 4 prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis one month from today.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee today passed Senate Bill 4 unanimously. Authored by State Senator Randy Head, R-Logansport, the bill now moves to the full Indiana Senate for consideration.
"There are enormous economic benefits of hosting large sporting events such as the Super Bowl, but the disturbing reality is that such gatherings in other states have drawn criminal rings that traffick young women and children into the commercial sex trade. Our existing statute is inadequate to deter and prosecute these criminals, and so we urge the Legislature to pass the bill to update the law before the big game February 5. Senator Randy Head took the initiative on this legislation, and it has received bipartisan support of all those committee members who heard the bill on an expedited basis in the Corrections committee, and so we commend them for the progress made," Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.
Human trafficking can include the recruiting, harboring or selling of a person, especially a child, for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or involuntary servitude. Senate Bill 4 makes several updates to existing law prohibiting human trafficking:
. Since trafficking is often committed by criminals who are unrelated to their victims, the bill closes a loophole in statute so that any non-relative who victimizes a child in this way can be prosecuted, rather than a parent or guardian only.
. The bill would more effectively define the crime of "promotion of human trafficking of a minor" so that prosecutors could bring charges against traffickers even if no force was used, and for situations involving prostitution and involuntary servitude by minors.
At today's Senate committee hearing that Zoeller attended, Deputy Attorney General Abigail Kuzma - who is chief counsel of the AG's Consumer Protection Division - and Deputy Attorney General David Miller testified about the bill. An influx of trafficking activity has been reported in cities that hosted previous Super Bowls and other large sporting events.
Leading up to the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, a task force led by the Texas Attorney General's Office reported 133 prostitution-related arrests, through which one trafficking victim led authorities to her trafficker, who was later arrested and charged, according to the Texas AG's Office.
Trafficking arrests also were reported as coinciding with the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa and 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. In the Tampa case, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained convictions of two adult men for using a website to subject a 14-year-old girl to prostitution. In the Miami case investigated by Miami-Dade police, an adult man was convicted of transporting a 17-year-old girl from Hawaii to a Miami hotel for prostitution, according to published reports.
According to the U.S. State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, approximately 12.3 million adults and children are trafficked across international borders into forced labor and sexual exploitation worldwide.
In 2011, stopping the problem of human trafficking was designated a presidential initiative by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and Washington state's attorney general, Rob McKenna, asked Zoeller to participate in the nationwide effort to crack down on trafficking through legislation, public awareness and deterring demand.
"This bill creates new legal tools; and if by passing a new law Indiana can act to stop the exploitation of even one person by a trafficker, then it will be a success," Zoeller said.
NOTE: An audio sound bite of Attorney General Zoeller's comment on the bill is at this link.
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