INDIANAPOLIS - Today the Indiana General Assembly unanimously passed the bill that strengthens Indiana's laws against human trafficking and sent the bill to the Governor's desk for his signature.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller had recommended that legislators pass the new human trafficking law before Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 due to concerns that large sporting events tend to be magnets for organized criminal rings that promote prostitution. Today, the Indiana House passed the legislation, Senate Bill 4, on third reading by a vote of 93-0. Previously the same bill passed in the Indiana Senate, 48-0.
"The legislators who make up our Indiana General Assembly are to be complimented for rising above the tension and divisiveness of the past weeks in coming together to pass this important measure as the first bill of the session, in advance of the Super Bowl," Zoeller said.
Zoeller thanked legislators who gave unanimous support to the legislation, particularly the bill's author, State Senator Randy Head, R-Logansport, and House sponsor, State Representative Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville. He also commended representatives of various nonprofit groups and law enforcement agencies who serve on the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force, or IPATH, who advocated for changing the law to protect exploited victims.
In cities that hosted previous Super Bowls and other large sporting events, law enforcement reported an influx of trafficking activity as criminals in the commercial sex trade facilitated prostitution of young victims due to the proximity of large numbers of visiting clients. 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.
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. The legislation, now called Senate Enrolled Act 4, makes several updates to existing law prohibiting human trafficking:
. Since trafficking is often committed by criminals who are unrelated to their victims, the legislation 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.
. It also broadens the penalty for certain types of human trafficking so the potential sentence is increased from a Class B felony (punishable by six to 20 years) up to a Class A felony (punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison).
The bill takes effect immediately upon the Governor's signature.
In 2011, stopping the problem of human trafficking was designated a presidential initiative by the National Association of Attorneys General, or NAAG. 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. AG McKenna will visit Zoeller's office during next weekend's Super Bowl to discuss the trafficking-deterrence efforts.
On Thursday, Attorney General Zoeller joined sports civic leaders from the Indianapolis Colts - including center Jeff Saturday, former player Tarik Glenn and retired vice president Tom Zupancic - to sign a pledge, promising to do all they can to discourage any social acceptance or tolerance of the commercial sex industry and drive down demand for trafficking.
"Though it is an honor for Indiana to host the Super Bowl, many sincere voices have brought to light the fact that human trafficking is a shameful practice we can't ignore. With the Governor's signature, law enforcement and prosecutors will have a new legal tool to combat this problem," Zoeller said.
NOTE: An audio sound bite of Attorney General Zoeller's comment on the bill is at this link.
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