Skip to main content

Washington Co. officials team up to fight sex trafficking, help victims


Washington County officials have formed a coalition to fight sex trafficking following an uptick in cases in recent months.

County Attorney Pete Orput announced Wednesday that law enforcement agencies and social service organizations in the county are teaming up to better assist victims and combat sex trafficking.

In 2009, the FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 cities in the U.S. with a high incidence of child prostitution. But because of social media and the Internet, sex trafficking isn't just a problem in major cities – it has spread to Washington County and other suburbs.

"We have seen a number of significant sex trafficking cases in Washington County over the past several months and we know these activities will not stop absent combined, focused attention by law enforcement, social services and prosecutors," Washington County Sheriff William Hutton said in the release.

Back in September, undercover stings in the metro led to 21 men being charged – 13 of them were in Washington County, the Star Tribune says, noting more cases are pending.

The increase in cases is why the county is putting its focus on ending sex trafficking. The new initiative establishes a Major Crimes Prosecution Section, with its highest priority being sex trafficking, and creates the Washington County Human Trafficking Unit.

The county attorney says the coalition will review closed and pending cases involving at-risk youth, create a program to identify and track potential victims, and increase investigations and prosecutions to reduce incidents of sex trafficking. It will also train law enforcement, hotel staff and others to help them recognize sex trafficking activities and potential victims.

Washington County's efforts come on the heels of the first full year of the state's Safe Harbor Law, which aims to ensure that minors who are sold for sex aren't viewed as delinquents, but are treated as victims and given assistance through various services across the state.

Just this week, an evaluation of the first year of the law was released, which showed 163 minors – ranging in age from 9-17 years old – received services through the program. The evaluation also called for more funding and additional resources that would improve the program to help more victims.

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov

Kirill Kaprizov's slow start is a thing of the past

A potential sophomore slump has been erased with a three-point night against the Devils..

mpd aldi incident screengrab

Video shows MPD officer grab, throw Aldi customer

The department says the matter was referred to the Office of Police Conduct Review.

US Sec Defense Flickr - Joe Bide Nov 11 2021

Biden lays out wintertime plan to curb COVID's spread

It comes as the U.S. reported its second case of the omicron variant.

Willow River DOC

MN Dept. of Corrections offering $5K bonuses as it seeks to hire 200

The DOC is offering hiring bonuses for new employees and for referrals.


3rd federal medical team to join COVID-19 fight in Minnesota

There are more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 admitted to Minnesota hospitals.

hospital, emergency room

Driver killed after other motorist crosses into opposite lane

The head-on crash occurred early Thursday, just north of the Twin Cities.

shot clock

MSHSL approves shot clock for Minnesota varsity basketball

Shot clocks will be required at all varsity games beginning in 2023-24.

Redmons Popcorn Colbert screengrab

Popcorn shop featured on 'The Late Show' has to close 2 days later

A county inspection after the national TV appearance found code violations.


Officials are working with hotels to combat sex trafficking

They're teaching workers to identify the signs of trafficking victims.

Dakota, Washington, Ramsey counties team up to fight prescription drug abuse

A coalition of law enforcers and prosecutors in the east metro hopes that focusing on early intervention and prevention will help stem a growing problem that prison time cannot seem to stop.