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Human trafficking and the Indy 500: What race fans should know – IndyStar

Human trafficking and the Indy 500: What race fans should know – IndyStar

As thousands of people flock to Indianapolis for racing festivities this weekend, concerns about human trafficking may be on the minds of spectators.

While the crowds of race fans arriving to attend the Indianapolis 500 doesn’t necessarily indicate there will be a spike in human trafficking cases, police and advocates are reminding people to mind their surroundings and be conscious of their safety.

The event, which is returning to full capacity for the first time since 2019, comes on the heels of a 15-year-old being taken from a Dallas Mavericks game and later found to be trafficked out of a hotel in Oklahoma. Both local police and advocates call the case upsetting, while also “extremely rare,” but it serves as a chance to remind people to report suspicious activity.

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Here’s what police and trafficking advocates say parents and Indy 500 race fans need to know:

What is human trafficking? 

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.

Indiana law identifies four types of trafficking, including sex trafficking or forced prostitution, labor trafficking, domestic servitude and forced marriage.

Is human trafficking at the Indy 500 a concern for local officials? 

An expert and police investigator cautioned the notion that sporting events like the Indy 500 are more uniquely and inherently ripe for human trafficking than any other type of gathering. They explained any time there is an event – from sport games to conventions – the number of people in a city will swell, therefore likely increasing the number of people looking to buy sex.

Does the number of buyers and sellers drastically rise as a result? 

“Absolutely not,” said Det. Sgt. Jon Daggy, of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Human Trafficking – Vice Unit.

To Daggy, the Indy 500 is no different than any other day. His unit works human trafficking investigations on a daily basis.

“We’re just happy when we can finally recover a … victim,” he said.

Beth White, president of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking, said the underlying message is for families not to be afraid, but aware and alert. She noted it’s just as important to be aware of trafficking year-round, beyond the Indy 500.

“People should just be aware and be understanding that this kind of behavior can go on and they just need to keep themselves and their families safe,” White said. “And this is not (Indianapolis’) first rodeo. We host the Indianapolis 500 … and we have done it for many, many years.”

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What are the signs of a trafficked person? 

The Indiana Department of Education lists a number of indicators that a person, specifically youth, may be trafficked.

Among the signs:

  • The minor doesn’t know their surroundings, doesn’t speak or look up from the ground.
  • An adult other than a parent speaks for them.
  • They’re dressed in a manner that’s inappropriate for the weather.
  • They have “branding” or tattoos of names, dollar signs or emblems.
  • They have bruises or scars

What are the reported occurrences of trafficking in Indiana?  

In 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 140 trafficking cases in Indiana. The number is slightly lower than the cases identified in 2019, which recorded 156 cases.

The “hot spots” in Indiana where these cases were reported include Northwest Indiana, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Marion, Kokomo, Indianapolis, Hamilton County, Terre Haute, Bloomington, Columbus, Evansville and Jeffersonville.

The cases are largely clustered at places near interstates and highways.

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What should someone do if they see something suspicious at the race? 

“If you see something, say something,” White said.

Her recommendation echoes what Indianapolis police leaders said days before at a news conference about safety measures at the race.

Police officials urged fans to alert the nearest law enforcement officer at the track if they see something suspicious.

Human trafficking cases also can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, and beyond this weekend. Daggy said their unit is notified any time a report about human trafficking in Indianapolis is made to the hotline.

Daggy further advised that parents this weekend not allow people to approach their family and attempt to lead them somewhere. He also noted parents should monitor their kids’ electronics and social media.

Contact IndyStar reporter Sarah Nelson at 317-503-7514 or [email protected] 

This article is pulled “as is” from the Google News Alert “human trafficking.”

 

EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from a Google News Alert for “human trafficking.”

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