In 2016, there were at least 178 known cases of human trafficking in Indiana, with some of the victims as young as only 7 years old.
That’s according to the 2016 Indiana State Report on Human Trafficking, released Wednesday by Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office. In the report, Zoeller’s office calls on the state to increase the amount of resources dedicated to human trafficking prosecution, protection and prevention to strengthen the state’s ability to identify and treat young trafficking victims.
“Today we know far more than we did (in 2009), or even as far back as 2005 when the (Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force) was first created,” Zoeller wrote in the report. “While we have made tremendous progress in policy, legislation, and research, we still have a long way to go.”
Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating $150.2 billion annually, the report says. Roughly 27 million people are exploited through trafficking each year and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 83 percent of all trafficking victims in the United States are American citizens, debunking the myth that trafficking exists largely outside of the U.S.
In Indiana, a statewide IPATH partner reported that its service providers served 178 trafficked youth in 2016. Of those served under the age of 21, 94 percent were girls and 60 percent were white. Further, the report shows that about 30 percent of Indiana victims served are younger than age 15 and more than 10 percent are between the ages of 12 and 14. The majority of Indiana victims are white, following by black, Hispanic, biracial and Asian.
The attorney general’s report also shows that at least 36 trafficked immigrants have been served in Indiana. Often, pro bono legal service providers help those immigrants obtain a T Visa, which provides humanitarian immigration relief to trafficking victims.
Awareness of signs of human trafficking also appears to be on the rise, as the report shows a sharp increase in the number of human trafficking tips that are received in the state. In 2014, IPATH received 130 tips about possible human trafficking cases. In 2015, that number rose to 275 and by 2016, the taskforce received 520 tips. Further, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline, received 243 calls from Indiana, with 53 of the calls thought to be likely human trafficking cases.
Although not all tips are confirmed, and some may be duplicates, the report notes that the increase “indicates recognition of potential trafficking scenarios.” However, the sharp increase could also indicate an increase in human trafficking incidents in Indiana.
Despite the notable uptick in tips related to possible trafficking, a 2014 survey conducted by IPATH and the University of Indianapolis showed that only 25 percent of Indiana service providers who work with high-risk youth had previously been trained on human trafficking. Further, 44.2 percent said they did not think they would usually be able to recognize that their clients had been trafficking victims.
After reading definitions of human trafficking, the report shows that 32.9 percent of providers said they believed at least one of their clients had been victimized as a minor through sex trafficking.
To that end, the attorney general’s report calls for additional resources to increase the state’s capacity to recognize and treat trafficking victims. The report lists seven recommendations specific to IPATH, including additional funding to train youth, law enforcement and service providers about human trafficking.
Additionally, the report calls for Indiana to adopt a policy that requires a picture to be gathered when posting about a missing youth on Indiana’s missing persons website. Similarly, the Department of Child Services could require a photo of each child in care to be taken at least annually so that it may be posted on the missing persons site if the child runs away. Runaways are at a higher risk for trafficking and sexual exploitation, the report says.
The full 131-page report can be read here