INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- New data shows people reported more cases to helplines in 2017 across the country and in Indiana.
Polaris, an organization which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, reports a 13 percent increase in human trafficking cases reported in 2017 to the hotline and BeFree Textline when compared to 2016. In Indiana, there were 95 cases reported to hotlines in 2017 compared to 85 in 2016.
"I think people just have this idea that a lot of times it's this foreign born issue, but really it's our kids in our own backyard that are being sold for sex in our city," Tracy McDaniel, the CEO and founder of Restored Inc., said.
The organization works with sex trafficking victims in Indiana and also works to train those in law enforcement on the issue.
"One of my biggest counties is Hamilton County. I get a lot of trafficking and sexual exploitation, Delaware County, Muncie, you know, there's a lot of drugs moving in and out. We've done stuff out in South Bend, Fort Wayne, I've just started seeing some stuff towards the east so really all over. I mean there's not an area I haven't seen a case come out of," McDaniel said.
She said last year they served 85 kids up to the age of 18. In total, though, they served more than 150 individuals. McDaniel said their case load has tripled each year, though they also see cases of sexual exploitation. She points to increased awareness and education about it and demand for the crime. One example she used as an example was a reversal sting with a law enforcement agency.
"Within 24 hours we had over 400 men trying to purchase sex from our investigator that was posing as a 15 year old girl. So when we think about the supply and demand there's such a demand for sex. So these traffickers and these perpetrators are often going out, it's a $150 billion industry, so they're going out they're making a lot of money, a lot of times these cases aren't being prosecuted, these cases are extremely hard to work," McDaniel said.
In Indianapolis police are working to combat the crime.
"Our investigators do what we can, we act on our tips, we actively seek individuals involved in that type of behavior," IMPD Sgt. Christopher Wilburn said.
Wilburn said it is a priority for police.
"It also is a very, very challenging as it relates to getting enough information to push forward without victimizing the individual involved in the particular activity," Wilburn.
According to Polaris, its data showed risk factors included recent relocation, substance use, runaway and homeless youth, mental health concerns and involvement in the child welfare system.
McDaniel said if you see something and it doesn't feel right, call law enforcement. You can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text to 233733.