By Andi TenBarge
A bill that aims to reduce human trafficking in the state is moving through the Indiana General Assembly.
House Bill 1216 – authored by Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette – requires the superintendent of state police to create a pamphlet to be distributed by law enforcement when encountering a missing child report.
Lawmakers said that the bill would also provide a defense to the crime of prostitution if the defendant is a child and a victim of human or sexual trafficking.
David Miller, a representative of the attorney general’s office, said the proposed measure is another tool to help stop human trafficking. He added the industry is the second fastest growing crime in the world.
More incidents of human trafficking are starting to come to light in Indiana. In 2014, the attorney general’s office reported 100 human trafficking complaints.
Assistant Attorney General Abigail Kuzma spoke on behalf of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans organization during Monday’s committee meeting. She said the organization has noticed a connection between missing children and children who are trafficked.
“One of the statistics that’s often quoted is that a kid will be approached by a pimp within 48 hours of leaving home as a runaway,” Kuzma said.
Kuzma added the number of sex trade incidents increases during major sports events.
The measure comes three years after a bill passed the Indiana General Assembly to strengthen the state’s laws against prostitution. A bill moved quickly through the legislature when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in 2012.
The bill that passed in 2012:
- Closed a loophole in the existing statute so non-relatives who traffic a child can be prosecuted, rather than a parent or guardian only.
- More effectively defined the crime of “promotion of human trafficking of a minor” so that prosecutors could bring charges against traffickers even if no force was used and for situations involving prostitution and involuntary servitude by minors.
- Broadened the penalty for certain types of trafficking so the sentences are increased.
The legislation made human trafficking a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It also made it punishable up to 50 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, to traffic someone younger than 16.
HB 1216 passed the Senate Family and Children’s Services Committee 7-0.
Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.