The continuing crackdown on prostitution is important not just for upholding public health and decency, as was a concern in the past, but also because the prostitutes themselves require protection from harm and a transition to normal lives.
Prostitution is illegal, but realize prostitutes aren't necessarily willing participants in the crime. If they're coerced through fraud, force or threat, that's human trafficking. It happens to women, men, boys and girls.
In 2011, the FBI reported, almost 1,000 people were arrested in Indiana for either prostitution or patronizing a prostitute.
The temptation might be to look at prostitutes as evil temptresses, but there's often more to the story.
"We're taking a closer look at who these women are," Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told Times reporter Anna Ortiz. Buncich has assigned a full-time detective to investigate human trafficking concerns.
The FBI said about 8 in 10 suspected human trafficking incidents between 2008 and 2010 involved sex.
"It's definitely a problem," Buncich said. "Our investigations have shown that there is something to this. There is something going on here."
That's why the Sheriff's Department and Hammond police worked together on two sting operations in July.
"What we're doing is going after the johns and also taking a closer look at these women and learning about who they are and finding which women are victims of human trafficking," Buncich said.
Prostitution can shorten an individual's life expectancy to just 34 years, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Fighting prostitution is an ancient but urgent problem.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller is concerned that tolerating prostitution could fuel other crimes.
"This brings criminals into Hammond to look for the girls, people like murderers and robbers. We don't want to bring war into the city."
As with drugs, prostitution is fueled by customer demand. That's why police are targeting the customers, not just the prostitutes. Demand for paid sex must be reduced.
Further, coerced prostitutes must be freed from this awful life of crime, and social workers must find them the support they need to become physically and emotionally healthy.