Over Final Four Weekend, an undercover sex trafficking operation resulted in 60 perpetrator arrests and 28 victim rescues in the Twin Cities.
Twin Cities Launches Sex Trafficking Sting
Between April 4 – 8, the NCAA finals were held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The event brought thousands of out-of-town visitors to the Twin Cities looking for fun-filled family activities, great entertainment, and illegal services such as prostitution and sex trafficking. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety took advantage of the event by initiating an undercover sex trafficking operation with undercover agents posing as prostitutes and social media ads to entice sex buyers. As a result, police arrested 47 people for probable cause solicitation of a minor, or solicitation of prostitution under 16 years of age, and 11 more people were arrested for sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution.
The Final Four undercover operation involved 33 different criminal justice agencies at the federal, state, and city level, including investigators from the Buffalo, Minneapolis, and St. Paul Police Departments, the Hennepin County and Anoka Sheriff’s offices, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Police departments from various Minnesota cities, including Bemidji, Duluth, Rochester, and Thief River Falls also helped with the undercover sting. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, close to 60 people are facing possible felony charges as a result of attempting to solicit minors under age 18 for sex trafficking and prostitution.
Minnesota Sex Crimes
According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota recorded the nation’s third-highest rate of sex trafficking activities in 2015. During major events like the Final Four and Super Bowl weekend, sex trafficking increases. With any big event that has a significant number of male attendees, a party atmosphere, and lots of cash, police expect a surge in illegal activities. Although sex trafficking and prostitution often overlap, it becomes sex trafficking when there’s a third party who benefits from the sale of illegal sex. During major events, police officers and undercover agents are trained on how to recognize, prevent, and disrupt sex trafficking activities.
In most cases, sex traffickers are males, but they don’t fit any typical stereotype. In more than 70 percent of sex-related cases tried in Minnesota courts from 2012 to 2016, the alleged trafficker was a friend, boyfriend, family member, or casual acquaintance of the victim, according to WATCH, a nonprofit monitor of the justice system in Minnesota.