In the past few years, human trafficking has become a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed before it becomes a larger problem for Indiana. This session, the General Assembly worked to strengthen our state’s trafficking laws through a bill I co-sponsored. With human trafficking being the world’s second largest criminal activity, generating roughly $32 billion annually, having conversations to combat the causal roots of these heinous deeds was over – we had to act.
Many human trafficking victims are promised well-paying jobs or forgiveness of personal debt, and after being lied to, they are coerced into domestic servitude, forced labor or prostitution. In fact, as of 2010, 12.3 million adults and children have fallen victim to these terrible lies. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2008 and 2010, federally funded task forces launched 2,515 investigations into human trafficking incidents which resulted in 527 confirmed victims and 488 suspects. Although some progress was made to bring these criminals to justice, we need to make bigger strides in the future to increase our level of awareness and become more knowledgeable of the mechanisms in place to minimize these horrible acts from occurring.
Last year, the Indiana General Assembly worked to combat human trafficking through Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 4 which established that recruiting, harboring, or transporting another person to participate in sexual conduct by force, threat of force or fraud constitutes as human trafficking. Under the law, any person convicted that harbors, or transports a child less than 16 years of age with the intent of engaging the child in forced labor, involuntary servitude, prostitution or sexual conduct commits promotion of human trafficking of a minor, resulting in a Class B felony. The bill was expedited through the legislative process and was signed into law last February.
Indiana continued to tackle this global problem this session by passing SEA 509. I co-sponsored the legislation because it works to keep our Hoosier children and communities safer by providing law enforcement personnel with the ability to investigate human trafficking cases of a child less than 18 years old. SEA 509 updates Indiana’s laws concerning the trafficking of minors to align with most other states and federal law.
It is crucial that Indiana uses every available resource to fight against human trafficking which is what SEA 509 intends to accomplish. Since nothing is more important than the safety of Hoosier children, I was pleased that we strengthened the human trafficking laws this year and have continued to work to prevent these crimes from being committed.
As long as we take action and work together, I’m confident that we can reduce the number of trafficking incidents. In addition to Indiana, federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) are actively engaging in the fight against trafficking and have resources available for those wishing to participate in their efforts. If you are interested, please visit www.dhs.gov for available resources, more information and to learn what role you can play in the prevention of human trafficking incidents. With millions of adults and children falling victim to these terrible crimes, everyone has a role to play in assisting our state, federal agencies and local law enforcement in keeping our communities safe and reducing the number of these incidents from occurring.