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Sex trafficking in Minnesota: Convictions double as resources are built up

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Sex trafficking convictions in Minnesota more than doubled from 2012 to 2013, a government report released Wednesday shows.

The 2014 Human Trafficking in Minnesota report is prepared every two years by the state's Department of Justice. KSTP says it's also presented to the Legislature.

The report (which you can see in full below) details charges and convictions for certain human trafficking-related crimes, and shows convictions for sex trafficking more than doubled, going from 31 in 2012 to 63 in 2013 – despite less suspects being charged with such a crime in the latter year. In the five years prior, there had never been more than 18 such convictions in a single year.

Convictions for "use of a minor in a sexual performance" also saw a dramatic spike, from one in 2012 to nine in 2013.

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Ramsey County Attorney John Choi told the Star Tribune the rise is due to an increased focus on victims of such crimes.

One of the recent changes is the implementation of the Safe Harbor Act, which – among a number of other things – allows the state to treat girls under the age of 18 as victims and survivors of a sex crime, and not as criminals. The law was passed in 2011 with pieces of the new policies adopted over time.

As of Aug. 1, that included full implementation of the No Wrong Door model, which "provides a road map for services and funding that will allow youth to be effectively served without being arrested, detained or charged as a juvenile delinquent," the human trafficking report says.

One of the goals of the model is additional funding, and this past year the Legislature set aside $4.3 million for combating youth sex trafficking. But the No Wrong Door report estimates at least $13.5 million is needed.

The FBI recently identified the Twin Cities as having a high rate of child prostitution.

This year, St. Paul opened Safe and Sound: A Shelter for Girls, which is offering help to girls ages 10-17 have been victims of sex trafficking. The 7,000-square-foot space will provide 14 beds for underage trafficking victims to stay – bringing the number of beds in the state to 18 total.

Service providers survey

The report also surveyed service providers from across Minnesota, receiving responses from 99 of the 189 asked, with respondents' service areas covering all Minnesota counties.

Nearly three-quarters of those respondents said their organization helped a victim of either sex trafficking or labor trafficking.

For the first time, the providers were asked about offering services specifically for victims of human trafficking. Twenty-seven organizations said they offer help for trafficking victims, either sex trafficking or labor trafficking. But only half actually received funding for those services.

During 2013, the 58 service providers who said they'd helped victims of sex trafficking reported assisting 35 adult males, 202 adult females, 35 boys and 119 girls who had been sex trafficked. Most of that came in the form of forced prostitution, but there were also a significant number of reports of forced pornography and forced stripping.

Inner workings of the sex trade

Last month, a comprehensive new investigative report titled “Mapping the Market for Sex With Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis” discussed why the numbers have authorities concerned. The study by Minnesota researchers is the first of its kind, they say.

The report details the inner-workings of the sex trafficking market in Minneapolis and maps out how young girls are recruited for exploitation into the sex trade, trapped with intimidation, manipulation, violence and rape, and then sold through a complex and wide-ranging network of buyers and sellers.

“The findings offer a birds-eye view of the ‘who, where, and how’ of juvenile sex trafficking in Minneapolis,” lead University of Minnesota researcher Lauren Martin says. “As we pulled the lens back away from the areas particularly affected by this, it became clear that this is a problem involving people of every background, in communities both in and around Minneapolis.”

The population boom in the North Dakota oil patch region has also brought with it a troubling rise in sex trafficking cases.

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