Six people have been arrested in a juvenile prostitution sting in southern Minnesota.
Area police in Madison Lake, Minnesota, ran an online ad posing as an underage prostitute, and received calls and text messages from more than 150 people in response.
Of these, six were arrested in the sting on Saturday, after agreeing to buy sex for money or drugs, according to a Nicollet County Sheriff's Office release.
A seventh person fled during the operation, and police are still looking for them.
The counties of Nicollet, Brown and Blue Earth have seen 105 people arrested for prostitution-related offenses in the past three years, the sheriff's office release states.
The sting operation was made possible by grants from the Women's Foundation of Minnesota and the Office of Justice Programs, with the sheriff's office saying: "We are continuing to try to get the message out that Minnesota girls are not for sale in southern Minnesota."
Earlier this year, police in St. Paul ran a similar prostitution sting that saw five people arrested trying to solicit sex at a hotel, one of them a deputy Minnesota commissioner.
Prostitution, sex trafficking in Minnesota
The Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force says the demand for commercial sex drives prostitution and human sex trafficking. (Prostitution, under Minnesota state law, means hiring or agreeing to hire someone for sex, while human trafficking means aiding in the prostitution of someone.)
Because prostitution and sex trafficking are closely related, statistics about the prevalence of these crimes are often lumped together. Estimates show that 8,000 to 12,000 people are involved in prostitution or sex trafficking every day in Minnesota, a 2009 fact sheet from the Advocates of Human Rights shows.
And the rates are so high, that the FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 metro areas in the U.S. with a high incidence of child prostitution.
People under the age of 24 found to be engaging in prostitution are treated as victims rather than suspects in Minnesota, because of the state's safe harbor laws.