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Indiana lawmakers consider single go-to contact for human trafficking

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It could happen at the restaurant near home or even in your neighborhood. We’re talking about human trafficking. It happens in Indiana.

On Wednesday, Indiana lawmakers in a summer study committee said they want to help human trafficking victims and help people not become victims.

State Rep. Sally Siegrist, a Republican from West Lafayette, said, “Sadly, this is a hidden but very large industry throughout the world, and Indiana is no exception.” 

Human trafficking is so much of a problem that the Indiana’s Attorney General’s Office gets tips about it every day.

Denise Robinson, chief counsel of investigations with the office, said, “Probably in 2018 already, I imagine we’ve had several hundred tips. How many of those actually pan out as we farm them out to individual counties is very difficult to track because you don’t have a single point-of-contact in the state.” 

Lawmakers discussed if a single statewide point of contact or go-too should be created to deal with adult human trafficking victims.

Siegrist said, “What that means is there would be a go-to law enforcement agency or person because many times a human trafficking victim or a suspected victim of human trafficking will be sitting in a law enforcement officer’s car, and the officer isn’t really sure what to do with them.”

Robinson argued in favor of a central agency or framework to let victims know what recourses and help exists. “The framework is already there for us to be that single point-of contact.”

The attorney general’s office is just awaiting the green light.

“Correct, and a little more authority and some money that goes along with it,” Robinson said. 

Lawmakers also talked about if there should be a program to help adult victims similar to how the Department of Child Services helps children.

Another question asked was whether a state agency oversee and administer programs to stop human trafficking in Indiana. 

State Sen. Greg Taylor, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “If we come up with a comprehensive plan, maybe we can come back maybe five years from now and talk about how we did it. How we cut into or at least almost eliminated human trafficking in Indiana.” 

The committee chairman, Rep. Thomas Washburn, a Republican from Darmstadt, said lawmakers may take what they discussed Wednesday and use it to create bills ahead of next legislative session in 2019.