INDIANAPOLIS – Volunteers with a common mission to prevent human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl were the key to an unprecedented effort to recover victims and deter traffickers, according to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
“The post-game review makes it clear that Indiana did its part to send a message to victims, sex buyers and traffickers. This has been an extraordinary effort by a large number of volunteers giving training presentations and outreach efforts to educate the public. Zoeller said. “Online monitoring revealed there was increased demand for commercial sex leading up to the Super Bowl and law enforcement’s rescue of two human trafficking victims proves it is a real problem and it can happen in our own backyards. Traffickers should know our outreach efforts to stop these crimes and rescue victims will continue despite the game day crowd’s departure.”
According to the KlaasKids Foundation, one month prior to the Super Bowl only three advertisements on Backpage.com were for female escorts as compared to 129 listed the day before the game. Law enforcement made 68 commercial sex arrests and recovered two human trafficking victims. Two other potential human trafficking victims were identified and are part of an ongoing investigation.
The Indiana Prevention of Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) task force, co-chaired by Zoeller, conducted 60 presentations and trained nearly 3,400 people prior to the Super Bowl. Law enforcement, cab drivers, first responders, medical professionals and others were trained to identify human trafficking victims and how to respond.
IPATH and its partnering organizations distributed 11,000 informational cards and 2,100 lip balms with the national human trafficking hotline number. Lip balms were distributed to restaurant restrooms and convenience stores. Two hundred area hotels received 1,250 brochures and 40,000 bars of soap with the national hotline number.
IPATH’s partners included 60 different government, nonprofit, faith based and community groups including: F.R.E.E. International, KlaasKids Foundation, Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.), Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM), Exodus Refugee Immigration, Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault (INCASA), Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans, Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking, and United Methodist Women.
Some of these partners set up a command center in Indianapolis as part of the “Tackle the Trafficker” initiative. Volunteers monitored websites and searched for missing children, many of whom may be pulled into human trafficking.
Zoeller said about 960 missing children booklets featuring names and photos were distributed across Indianapolis in hopes of identifying and recovering potential victims.
More than 396 volunteers, including more than 270 from Indiana, helped distribute materials, held awareness events and/or prayer vigils or provided donations. Most of these volunteers were from faith-based groups, churches and 10 colleges.
In 2011, stopping the problem of human trafficking was designated a presidential initiative by the National Association of Attorneys General. Zoeller was asked to participate in the nationwide effort to crack down on trafficking through legislation, deterring demand for commercial sex and spreading public awareness.
Zoeller successfully pushed for a new state law that closes loopholes so law enforcement and prosecutors have the legal tools they need to crack down on those who traffic young victims.
Indiana’s Attorney General also launched the “Don’t Buy the Lie” campaign which includes a publicly available video, power point and pledge. Further, more than 2,000 cards and 7,700 stickers were distributed to spread awareness that human trafficking is not a victimless crime.
Colts players and community leaders joined Zoeller in signing a pledge to take responsibility for ending public tolerance for the commercial sex industry that fuels human trafficking. The pledge asks men to make a "commitment of becoming a better man" by demonstrating the following: Not purchasing or participating in prostitution or any form of the commercial sex industry; holding friends accountable for their actions and demanding they show respect toward women and children; and standing up and taking action to protect the vulnerable from this destructive market.
"Perhaps the best news is that the national nonprofits and law enforcement informed us that all of IPATH's efforts and publicity worked toward prevention." Zoeller said. “For example, street level prostitution was nearly absent during Super Bowl week, as opposed to previous Super Bowls. At every opportunity we stated publically as well as through our anti-trafficking efforts that Hoosier Hospitality does not apply to traffickers--they will not be tolerated here."
For more information on the anti-human trafficking initiative visit www.in.gov/attorneygeneral and click on “Office Initiatives” and “Human Trafficking.”