Human trafficking on the rise in Indiana

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At least 178 juveniles in Indiana were victims of human trafficking in 2016, and the number of tips about possible trafficking victims in the Hoosier state is rising each year.

The Indiana Attorney General Office’s 2016 Indiana State Report on Human Trafficking shows that in a span of just two years, the number of tips to the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans, or IPATH, task force about possible trafficking incidents quadrupled, up to 520 tips in 2016 from 130 in 2014.

kuzma Kuzma

There are two main reasons for the sharp uptick in trafficking tips, said Abby Kuzma, Indiana assistant attorney general and chief counsel for the Division of Victim Services and Outreach — an increase in awareness of the signs of trafficking, and growth in the Hoosier trafficking industry. While the rising number of human trafficking incidents — which includes both sex and labor trafficking — is alarming, Indiana law enforcement and legal professionals say continued efforts toward raising awareness of potential signs of trafficking is the key element to reducing the number of victims in Indiana.

Most investigations into human trafficking cases in Indiana begin with routine police traffic stops, said Lt. Brad Hoffeditz, legal counsel and legislative coordinator for the Indiana State Police and a member of IPATH’s policy committee. However, outside tips from Indiana Department of Child Services case managers and the general public are becoming more common, Kuzma said.

Similarly, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which runs a 24/7 hotline, reported that as of October 2016, it had received 206 Indiana trafficking calls, with 66 of those tips confirmed as likely trafficking cases. That’s up from 53 likely cases in 2015 and 50 in 2014.

When Indiana tips come in, they are often received by either DCS or Indiana law enforcement agencies, which then work together to verify their credibility, Kuzma said. One of law enforcement’s biggest concerns in the fight against human trafficking has been determining the best information to use when deciding if a tip constitutes a legitimate concern, Hoffeditz said. To that end, ISP has made a greater push toward training its officers to recognize some of the most common indicators that a person has been the victim of a trafficking scheme.

terrell-shaunestte-mug.jpg Terrell

Those indicators will vary based on what field a person is working in, said Shaunestte Terrell, Marion County deputy prosecuting attorney in the Human Trafficking and Missing Persons Division. Terrell is the only prosecutor in the state whose work is solely dedicated to human trafficking issues.

Terrell, who is a member of the IPATH core committee, said a general lack of awareness of the common signs of a trafficking situation has been the state’s biggest obstacle to combatting the trafficking industry, which is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, according to the attorney general’s report. At least 300,000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, the report says.

From a law enforcement perspective, officers could be tipped off to a potential trafficking situation by someone’s clothes, possessions or demeanor, Hoffeditz said. But Terrell also takes her awareness message to hoteliers, social workers, school officials and people in other similar positions and advises workers in each of those industries on different indications that someone could be the victim of a commercial exploitation scheme.

Law enforcement officials and first responders are among the likeliest to encounter trafficking victims, Kuzma said, so it is crucial that those professionals understand the signs. Hoffeditz agreed and said ISP has begun training its officers to recognize common trafficking indicators as early as their time in the police academy, and that extra training has enabled officers to identify more potential victims during routine work, such as traffic stops.

Despite a greater awareness of potential trafficking indicators, more Hoosiers are being trafficked each year, with Terrell noting that the number of cases she works on has significantly increased over the course of two years, similar to the two-year jump in tips.

Another sign of the growing industry in Indiana is the increase in ads on “virtual brothels” such as, one of the most frequently used sites to find humans “available” for commercial exploitation, Kuzma said. The number of ads of youths “for sale” on Backpage is rising, she said, as is the demand on “adult services” sites, which frequently advertise prostitution veiled as body rubs or massages.

“That’s frightening, because demand fuels human trafficking,” Kuzma said.

The statewide opioid crisis also is contributing to the trafficking increase, with parents, often mothers, prostituting either themselves or their children as a way of getting money or drugs.

With so many factors contributing to the rise of trafficking across the Hoosier state, the report calls for an increase in financial resources to continue training and awareness initiatives for law enforcement, state agencies and service providers.

Funds are needed not just to stop traffickers, but also to provide services to victims, such as helping them find housing or get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, Terrell said. The prosecutor’s office can and does collaborate with victim service providers to meet some of those needs, but that collaboration is still not enough, she said.

However, Terrell praised Indiana, and the city of Indianapolis, in particular, for its collaborative approach to fighting the trafficking industry. The prosecutor’s office has staff designated for outreach to immigrant populations, such as Indianapolis’ Burmese population, and such initiatives are not as common across the country, the deputy prosecutor said.

Working with immigrant populations on trafficking issues is particularly important, Kuzma said, because immigrants who are trafficking victims can be eligible for a T Visa, which provides humanitarian immigration relief to victims of commercial exploitation.

Further, the report calls for the creation of an alternative prostitution court that would operate under the assumption that most prostitutes are not criminals, but instead are trafficking victims.

Often, adult prostitutes suffered sexual abuse or exploitation as minors, which makes them more susceptible to falling prey to trafficking schemes as adults, Kuzma said. Rather than sending those victims to jail for prostitution, the alternative court would offer trauma counseling and other mental health treatment to reduce recidivism. A similar program known as CATCH Court in Columbus, Ohio, has led to a significant decrease in both recidivism and in taxpayer money directed toward jail sentences, the report says.

Terrell said she is a strong advocate for the alternative court idea because it would provide trafficking victims with the necessary mental health treatment that they’ve been denied throughout their lives.

“I’ve not met one prostitute who says, ‘I do this because I love it,’” Terrell said. “Something’s going on there.”•


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  1. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

  2. GMA Ranger, I, too, was warned against posting on how the Ind govt was attempting to destroy me professionally, and visit great costs and even destitution upon my family through their processing. No doubt the discussion in Indy today is likely how to ban me from this site (I expect I soon will be), just as they have banned me from emailing them at the BLE and Office of Bar Admission and ADA coordinator -- or, if that fails, whether they can file a complaint against my Kansas or SCOTUS law license for telling just how they operate and offering all of my files over the past decade to any of good will. The elitist insiders running the Hoosier social control mechanisms realize that knowledge and a unified response will be the end of their unjust reign. They fear exposure and accountability. I was banned for life from the Indiana bar for questioning government processing, that is, for being a whistleblower. Hoosier whistleblowers suffer much. I have no doubt, Gma Ranger, of what you report. They fear us, but realize as long as they keep us in fear of them, they can control us. Kinda like the kids' show Ants. Tyrannical governments the world over are being shaken by empowered citizens. Hoosiers dealing with The Capitol are often dealing with tyranny. Time to rise up: Back to the Founders! MAGA!

  3. Science is showing us the root of addiction is the lack of connection (with people). Criminalizing people who are lonely is a gross misinterpretation of what data is revealing and the approach we must take to combat mental health. Harsher crimes from drug dealers? where there is a demand there is a market, so make it legal and encourage these citizens to be functioning members of a society with competitive market opportunities. Legalize are "drugs" and quit wasting tax payer dollars on frivolous incarceration. The system is destroying lives and doing it in the name of privatized profits. To demonize loneliness and destroy lives in the land of opportunity is not freedom.

  4. Good luck, but as I have documented in three Hail Mary's to the SCOTUS, two applications (2007 & 2013),a civil rights suit and my own kicked-to-the-curb prayer for mandamus. all supported in detailed affidavits with full legal briefing (never considered), the ISC knows that the BLE operates "above the law" (i.e. unconstitutionally) and does not give a damn. In fact, that is how it was designed to control the lawyers. IU Law Prof. Patrick Baude blew the whistle while he was Ind Bar Examiner President back in 1993, even he was shut down. It is a masonic system that blackballs those whom the elite disdain. Here is the basic thrust: When I asked why I was initially denied, the court's foremost jester wrote back that the ten examiners all voted, and I did not gain the needed votes for approval (whatever that is, probably ten) and thus I was not in .. nothing written, no explanation, just go away or appeal ... and if you appeal and disagree with their system .. proof positive you lack character and fitness. It is both arbitrary and capricious by its very design. The Hoosier legal elites are monarchical minded, and rejected me for life for ostensibly failing to sufficiently respect man's law (due to my stated regard for God's law -- which they questioned me on, after remanding me for a psych eval for holding such Higher Law beliefs) while breaking their own rules, breaking federal statutory law, and violating federal and state constitutions and ancient due process standards .. all well documented as they "processed me" over many years.... yes years ... they have few standards that they will not bulldoze to get to the end desired. And the ISC knows this, and they keep it in play. So sad, And the fed courts refuse to do anything, and so the blackballing show goes on ... it is the Indy way. My final experience here: I will open my files to anyone interested in seeing justice dawn over Indy. My cases are an open book, just ask.

  5. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.