Human trafficking battle worth effort

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Human trafficking, one of the most demeaning violations of individual rights, often seems far removed from the rural lifestyle associated with Indiana.

But all that Hoosiers need to do is look at the allegations facing former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle. He admitted recently in a federal plea deal that he solicited teenage girls and paid two underage girls to have sex with him.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller recently said that the Fogle case should serve as a wake-up call that sex trafficking can affect any Indiana community.

As co-chair of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) Task Force, Zoeller has been alerting Hoosiers to the horrors of human trafficking. The issue came to the forefront as some 68 commercial sex arrests were made immediately before and during the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

Indeed, a charge of promoting prostitution hurts the offender, his family and his job. And we all agree that prostitution is not a victimless crime.

Currently, the charge of soliciting sex from a prostitute is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by as much as one year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000.

Recently, Zoeller has suggested harsher penalties for men who hire prostitutes. He said he believes this would curb the sex trade and prevent human trafficking.

His concept is to be explored by a legislative committee that is also examining whether prosecutors and judges should be allowed to vacate convictions of prostitutes who show they’ve been forced into the trade.

Enforcement of the current law should be a concerted project among police agencies. Sting operations can result in dozens of arrests and make an impact on the public perception of the crime. Such coordinated law enforcement efforts might yield the same end result, without increasing solicitation penalties, to reduce human trafficking in Indiana.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association.