By Lisa Trigg
— TERRE HAUTE — Focusing on the demand side of human trafficking and the men who buy sex may be the best way to combat human trafficking, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said during a recent stop here.
Sex is an uncomfortable topic for many people, Zoeller admitted, but he said the public should know that many adult prostitutes got their starts in the sex trade by being trafficked as juveniles.
“If you learn the story of the prostitutes, most were prostituted before the age of consent,” Zoeller said while talking about Senate Enrolled Act 509. “You will find that many are victims of human trafficking one way or another.”
Zoeller applauded the efforts of State Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, who authored Senate Enrolled Act 509, this year’s bill that closed a potential loophole in last year’s new human trafficking law.
Zoeller also commended State Rep. Bob Heaton for his work during the legislature’s 2013 long session, noting that many of the bipartisan issues in the Statehouse received the attention they deserved to protect the public.
As co-chair of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force, Zoeller had urged legislators — prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis in 2012 — to enact a state law to combat criminals who trafficked women and children for prostitution. The Legislature passed that bill in time for the Super Bowl, but there was an age-limit loophole.
Zoeller this year recommended SEA 509, which revises the statute to say that
16- and 17-year-olds can be victims of illegal child trafficking. That removes a potential legal defense for criminal traffickers. The bill passed without opposition in the state Senate and Indiana House, and Gov. Mike Pence signed SEA 509 into law on April 12.
“Our efforts to combat human trafficking didn’t end with the Super Bowl, and to deter demand we are raising awareness that prostitution is not a ‘victimless crime.’ Thanks to the new law Sen. Waterman and other legislators passed, Indiana is even tougher on traffickers,” Zoeller said.
Waterman added, “Sex trafficking may not seem like a crime that happens here in America. Sadly, it occurs even in our Hoosier communities. During my time serving as Sullivan County sheriff, I saw these horrors first hand.
“This year’s bill was a needed improvement to Indiana’s human trafficking statute to make sure all young Hoosiers are protected from these crimes.”
Also during a press conference in Terre Haute with Waterman and Heaton, Zoeller said the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 246 is a needed step in combatting prescription drug abuse and “pill mills.”
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, chaired by Zoeller, examined the problem of some pain-management clinics that dispense addictive controlled substances with little oversight.
“The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is fueled by the irresponsible overprescribing of addictive painkillers to patients, which leads to drug dependency, easy access for abuse and accidental overdoses, all with terrible consequences,” Zoeller said. “The Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force determined that the state’s efforts to curb these harmful practices by ‘pill mills’ would be enhanced with new state laws, and I am grateful to the legislators who have invested long hours into crafting effective new statutes to help address the epidemic in Indiana.”
SEA 246, which Pence also signed into law, makes important changes, Zoeller said, regarding clinics that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances. If a clinic owner does not otherwise hold an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration, then the owner must obtain a CSR for each facility they own in Indiana.
As part of registration, clinic owners must oversee clinic operations and ensure that practitioners prescribe in compliance with law. Under SEA 246, the Attorney General’s office can move more quickly in acting against practitioners who overprescribe and in obtaining records for an investigation.
Zoeller also thanked legislators for passing Senate Enrolled Act 1, which allows schools to voluntarily apply for state matching grants of up to
$50,000 to create or expand School Resource Officer positions. SROs are career police officers from local public safety agencies who have received special training in interaction with students, and who are assigned to schools to provide safety.
He commended a local initiative taken by the Vigo County School Corporation and the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies to station armed police officers in all local schools following the Newtown, Conn., tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Zoeller said taking charge of the issue and having local leadership get involved without waiting on state law was the type of positive action needed to make schools safer.
SEA 1 was based on a study the AG¹s office conducted before Newtown. The study found that school officials and police would be interested in expanding SRO programs if funding were available. A state board will now review grant applications from schools and distribute funds.
The local partnership between the schools and police agencies will benefit from the funding mechanism implemented by the new law, Zoeller said.