INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Local and state law enforcement are stepping up efforts to fight human trafficking leading up to this year's Indianapolis 500.
This week, the Indiana attorney general's office is teaming with the FBI to train police and members of the tourism industry at restaurants and hotels on how to recognize the crime.
The 100th running of the Indy 500 will bring hundreds of thousands of fans to town. At the same time, the attorney general says large sporting events also brings with it an increase in sex crimes.
The 2015 Final Four attracted lots of sports fans to Indianapolis, but the games also brought a spike in sex trafficking.
“There’s no question when you bring large groups together, especially men, the demand for sex trafficking rises,” said Indiana attorney general Greg Zoeller.
During the Final Four, he says online ads offering escort services jumped by more than 100 ads a day.
That resulted in 18 criminal arrests. Zoeller wants to prevent large crowds at the big race from causing the same problems.
“We’ve been trying to be very aggressive about this. It’s not something we tolerate in Indiana,” said Zoeller.
Cutting down on prostitution during big events takes more than just police walking the streets. Restaurant and hotel employees need to look for warning signs.
Those red flags include young girls with older men that tend to pay for hotels and other items with lots of cash. Many times, the girls may not know where they are or show signs of drug use.
“When people recognize there’s just something amiss about a younger girl who’s out of place and with older man, that’s the first red flag people out to recognize and contact law enforcement,” said Zoeller.
Long term, Zoeller says reducing the crime means cutting demand and wants tougher laws for traffickers and johns alike. In the meantime, he has a warning for anyone involved in the sex trade ahead of the race.
“Indianapolis is not a friendly place for human traffickers. We don’t tolerate this in Indiana, but we also need to be prepared,” said Zoeller.
The attorney general's has trained thousands of law enforcement officers and members of the public on recognizing human trafficking. For more information, click here.