More than 1,000 arrested in sting to end sex trafficking, including dozens in MN

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A summer-long sting operation that targeted men who buy sex from prostitutes led to more than 1,000 arrests nationwide, including dozens in Minnesota.

The National Johns Suppression Initiative, which is led by Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart, involved 39 law enforcement agencies from 18 states. The agencies arrested 961 men (johns) trying to buy sex and 71 pimps or traffickers, a news release says. The effort also recovered 308 victims, including 50 juveniles.

Police departments in Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington participated in the initiative, which ran from June 1 through Aug. 30.

They made 29 arrests:

  • Duluth Police Department arrested three johns.
  • Minneapolis Police Department arrested 10 traffickers.
  • St. Paul and Bloomington police departments arrested 15 johns and 1 trafficker.

Some officials believe going after the men who buy sex reduces the demand for prostitution, which will in turn curb human trafficking, TIME says.

“This broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that sex trafficking simply is not a victimless crime,” Dart said in the release. “These women and girls have been brutalized and exploited – and the most effective way to deter these heinous crimes is to target the demand.”

The release highlighted some arrests made during the sweep, including a domestic assault incident that led to an arrest in St. Paul.

Earlier this summer, St. Paul police were investigating a domestic assault and found the victim had been trafficked and her trafficker was keeping her 3-year-old son at home, forcing her to return and keep her from going to the police, the release says.

Officers arrested the trafficker and have since recovered several other victims who were trafficked by him, the release notes. The man was charged with second-degree sex trafficking and domestic assault by strangulation, the Star Tribune reported.

Despite Minnesota's anti-sex trafficking efforts, the state is 13th in the nation for levels of prostitution, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

In 2013, those who provide services to victims reported assisting 35 adult males, 202 adult females, 35 boys and 119 girls who had been sex trafficked, a 2014 report to the state Legislature says. While law enforcement officials reported 17 investigations, 22 sex trafficking arrests and 1 sex trafficking charge filed that year.

The report notes that there is no systematic or centralized way to count victims, so assessing the level of victimization in the state is difficult.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates 100,000 children are exploited every year for prostitution in the United States, the Women's Foundation of Minnesota says.

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