Hoosiers work to combat human trafficking

Bars of soap with the Human Trafficking Hotline number listed on the packaging. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – BE FREE Indianapolis volunteers spent the day passing out information about human trafficking to local hotels, in an effort to raise awareness about the problem.

This is the Indianapolis branch’s first event, and volunteers from BE FREE Dayton came in to help train volunteers.

“It does happen in Indiana and that is the reason that we want to make sure people are aware of what’s happening,” said Tracy Pruitt, president of BE FREE Indianapolis.

About 25 people spent the morning labeling bars of soap with the human trafficking hotline number. Volunteers then dropped the bars of soap, along with a packet of trafficking warning signs to hotels across Indianapolis, because hotels are often where a large amount of crime takes place.

BE FREE hopes hotel workers will place the bars of soap in rooms they deem suspicious, giving possible victims a lifeline.

“They will be the eyes in the community for young ladies and young men that are being trafficked,” said Pruitt.

BE FREE launched their first event in the days before the Indy 500, hoping to attract a wider audience.

“The Indianapolis 500 is a large sporting event which brings several people into the city. Not only from the United States, but globally. So this will be an opportunity for people that even come to the event to learn about human trafficking and to come along side of us and assist in fighting sex trafficking.

“It’s not in the open, but once you start looking and understanding the signs, you start becoming more aware and you realize it’s kind of an epidemic right now,” said Kyle Gunn.

The event comes just days after police shut down two hotels and three massage parlors for multiple violations, including prostitution. After meeting some of the women inside the parlors, police worry human trafficking could be involved.

“Of the six women we encountered Wednesday, none of the six could speak any English. Only one had a visa, the others just had passports. They can say enough English lines to offer the different types of sexual favors, and when you go in, you’ll hear them practicing those lines. The girls live here. Today, the girl was cooking food as we entered. And, they don’t leave. They have no idea where to go. They don’t have cars here. They don’t have any kind of transportation. We’ve asked what city they were in, and they don’t even know,” IMPD Nuisance Abatement Sergeant William Carter told I-Team 8 on Friday.

BE FREE volunteers say human trafficking is actually thriving in the Midwest.

“In the Midwest, it’s a location that’s kind of prime. Simply because you’re able to get in and out of major cities within two hours,” said Gunn.

Pruitt says she hopes the bars of soap will help spread hope to trafficking victims throughout Indianapolis.

“There are places that they can go, and there are people that are looking for them, to find them, and to bring them back to their families,” said Pruitt.

If you suspect someone is involved in human trafficking you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can find trafficking signs and more resources on the Polaris Project website. You can visit the BE FREE Indianapolis Facebook page here. 

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