Unfortunately, big sports events don’t just draw gobs of fans and create a nice economic impact for the host city. Those same events can also draw sex traffickers in significant numbers.
Indianapolis has seen this at past NCAA Final Fours and at the 2012 Super Bowl.
The attorney general’s office tracked Backpage.com ads offering “escort services” in the Indianapolis area during the 2015 NCAA Final Four and found an increase of more than 100 ads per day. There were 18 commercial sex-related arrests during the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis.
Local law enforcement authorities are on guard for this activity as the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 approaches later this month.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office is training law enforcement officers and members of the tourism industry this week to recognize and combat human trafficking ahead of the Indianapolis 500. The race, which will be run May 29, is expected to draw a crowd in excess of 300,000.
Human trafficking—buying or selling individuals for sex or labor—is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry worldwide, generating an estimated $150.2 billion, Zoeller said. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and the average age children are first exploited is between 12 and 14, he added.
The Indiana AG’s office and the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute are training law enforcement and investigators on identifying and prosecuting human trafficking Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis.
On Wednesday, Zoeller’s office is partnering with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center and Hamilton County Tourism Inc. to train area hotels to recognize and report signs of trafficking.
“As long as there is demand for commercial sex, traffickers will continue to illegally and ruthlessly exploit children,” Zoeller said in a prepared statement. “These networks have gotten more sophisticated and new technologies allow them to operate largely undetected, but there are red flags and warning signs that can alert people to these crimes. Law enforcement will be on guard, but members of the public—particularly those in the tourism industry who may see signs of these crimes—can also play a critical role in spotting this activity and getting victims help.”
Last year, the Attorney General’s office launched the "Indiana’s Not Buying It" public awareness effort to refute myths about the commercial sex industry and human trafficking and try to reduce demand for commercial sex. IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter is featured in the public service announcement, which can be viewed at www.INNotBuyingIt.com.
Human trafficking tips can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at: 888-3737-888 (text BeFree to 233733).