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'We're Trying To Tell People: Don't Come Here.' State Cracks Down On Trafficking Before Indy 500

Thibaud Saintin

Federal, state and local law enforcement are increasing public awareness and enforcement efforts surrounding human trafficking as Indiana prepares for the Indianapolis 500. 

Officials say Indiana is a “hub” for human sex trafficking because of the large sporting events it often hosts.

Human trafficking and prostitution spike during large events. During the 2015 Final Four, for example, online ads for escort services on one website peaked at more than a hundred per day. Agencies are ramping up enforcement efforts ahead of this year’s Indianapolis 500, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the state.

U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler says it’s also incumbent on businesses, particularly hotels, to watch for signs of human trafficking and report it.

“How long are they renting the hotel space?” he asks. “Does the woman look age-appropriate for the individual that she’s with? How many people are there – two, three, four?”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says a robust public awareness campaign – similar to those used during last year’s Final Four and the 2012 Super Bowl – is just as important as the enforcement efforts.

“I’m not looking to have large-scale arrests,” he says. “I mean, that would almost be a failure. We’re trying to tell people ‘Don’t come here.’”

Zoeller says the average age of someone first drawn into the sex industry is 12 to 14 years old, and 83 percent of trafficked victims in the U-S are American citizens.  

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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