A major undercover sex trafficking operation has yielded almost five dozen arrests and saw 28 victims – including one child – rescued in the Twin Cities over Final Four weekend.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says a series of undercover operations were carried out in several Twin Cities communities between April 4-8, when tens of thousands of visitors were in town for the NCAA finals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
During the operation, suspects spoke with undercover agents on several social media platforms, who'd pose as minors or sex buyers, and arrested suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place.
During the course of the operation, police found and rescued 28 victims from trafficking situations, one of whom was a child.
Some 47 people were arrested for probable cause solicitation of a minor, or solicitation of prostitution under 16 years of age.
A further 11 people were arrested for sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution.
In a statement, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said: "Sex trafficking, like people playing basketball, goes on all year long. But when major events come to our town the criminals follow and law enforcement and prosecutors have a chance to make a big impact.
"That is what happened here and we already have charged 12 defendants in Hennepin County, with more coming."
"This operation is an example of the aggressive steps necessary to stop traffickers and johns who buy and sell people for sex in our communities," said Superintendent Drew Evans, of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
"We can’t let this crime continue, and we must work together to stop it."
The major operation involved 33 different criminal justice agencies at the city, state and federal level, including investigators from St. Paul, Minneapolis and Buffalo Police Departments, the Anoka and Hennepin County sheriff's offices, and the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.
Agencies lending a hand included police departments from various Minnesota cities, including Rochester, Duluth, Thief River Falls, and Bemidji.
The rescued victims have been put in contact with victim advocate organizations including Alexandria House and Breaking Free.