By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
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The federal government now spends $80 million a year to combat human trafficking. Almost none of that money actually goes to offer help to trafficking victims. Instead, former president George W. Bush created task forces in 92 cities. Each only averages about two sex cases a year.
That’s because, statistically speaking, most trafficking has nothing to do with sex.
The vast majority involves forced labor, people indentured to pay off smuggling fees. Hence, the lion’s share of traffickers aren’t pimps, but New York restaurateurs, Kansas meatpackers, and large-scale ag companies from Florida to California.
If cops wanted superior hunting, they’d do better to raid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce convention. But that would entail throwing down with the captains of industry, who just happen to own private militias of lawyers. Far easier to challenge the invisible pimps, where there’s no risk of getting nicks in your sword.
That’s the path chosen by Zoeller. He’s not exactly a seasoned crime fighter or man of the street. He made his bones as an aide to Vice President Dan Quayle, then worked the Beltway Republican patronage system before returning to Indiana. He apparently doesn’t have Google access, either.
Zoeller has been widely cited in the Indiana media for calling the Super Bowl the largest human trafficking event in the country. He championed the new law cracking down on the sexual sale of kids. He’s appeared at press conferences with Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, urging men to sign pledges foregoing the purchase of young girls. His office has trained more than 2,000 people to spot trafficking during the Super Bowl.
But while his preparations for the onslaught have come with ostentatious flair, our hero hasn’t accomplished much on the ground. So far, the biggest hooker bust came in suburban Greenwood, where a hotel sting netted three arrests.
One woman was from Texas. Detectives suspect she showed up for the Super Bowl.
Still, one might think Zoeller’s den is festooned with the scalps of battle, since his hometown annually hosts one of the largest sporting events in the country, the Indianapolis 500. His office has also co-chaired one of Bush’s anti-trafficking task forces since 2005.
But his point woman on trafficking, Abby Kuzma, can’t recall a single human-trafficking arrest at the Indy 500. Either racing fans – mostly poorer, country people – prefer to get amorous with Golden Corral hostesses, or America’s pimps have been calling in sick every year.
Maybe this Super Bowl will be different. Maybe Zoeller’s army will finds legions of prostitutes writhing in the Hilton kiddie pool. For the sake of a lasting national panic, one can only hope. After all, with attorneys general, state legislators and soap-dispensing nuns all on the team, it sometimes seems pointless to cry foul. Even the NFL’s McCarthy seems resigned to the idea that America’s political class is simply too invested in the Super Bowl hooker myth to make any protest worthwhile.
Despite the fact that he was dead right about last year’s game in Dallas, when asked for comment this year McCarthy offers only the following:
“The National Football League supports strong human trafficking laws. Additionally, we work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to insure that the Super Bowl is a safe environment for the host community and the fans who enjoy the game and the celebration.”