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Prostitution busts stem from website barred from posting sex ads

DELAWARE COUNTY, Ind. -- A massive prostitution sting in Delaware County resulted in the arrests of five women in one night. Deputies found them on a website that's supposed to be barred from posting sex ads.

Backpage.com's adult services section was shut down, but prostitutes and pimps are finding ways around the rules and posting ads on other parts of the site, through tabs like "dating" and "women seeking men." Those parts of the site are still active.

Undercover deputies with The Delaware County Sheriffs Office said it only takes seconds to find prostitutes online and many will travel from anywhere in central Indiana to Muncie to make some money and often times, buy drugs.

"You don’t just get the prostitutes that show up. You might get pimps. There might be robberies, even a girl might try to take money and run," the deputy said.

In one case, a woman was arrested for possession of drugs and a man was arrested outside the hotel for driving the woman to Muncie, but deputies and advocates said that arresting prostitutes isn't always the goal. Many of the women involved are being forced into the trade of prostitution or are victims of human trafficking.

Restored Inc. Founder and CEO, Tracy McDaniel said human trafficking is a $150 billion industry. She's not surprised that pimps will find any way to post ads online.

"It’s a supply and demand issue, an economic issue and, you know, individuals are going to whatever they can to keep making money for commercial prostitution," she said.

The mission of her organization is to find juveniles being forced into human trafficking, but along the way, they often find women over the age of 18 who are looking to get out of prostitution, but need help.

"The first thing we figure out is how old she is, and then we, you know, talk to her, we offer her services," McDaniel said. She added, "until we go after the demand, it just, really is a revolving door."

McDaniel said one of the biggest problems is the fact that people who pay for sex are essentially getting away with the crime.

"There has to be a higher penalty than what they’re getting now and a lot of times, they’re not getting anything," she said.

Restored Inc. works with Delaware County and other agencies on prostitution cases to help find and help victims.

If you or someone you know needs help getting out of a prostitution situation or may be a victim of human trafficking, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

For more from Restored Inc., click here.