Beltrami County is located in the northern part of Minnesota, roughly halfway between Duluth, MN and Grand Forks, ND. Its population is roughly 45,000, and its county seat is Bemidji, which abuts the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been documented within the county, generating other crimes and resulting in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in March 2015, officers with the Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force, Minneapolis Police Department, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension placed decoy listings to an “online escort service” suggesting acts of prostitution with 15- and 18-year-old girls. Undercover officers then fielded text messages from several men who responded to the listing. Four johns were arrested as a result; two were charged with solicitation of prostitution from an adult female (a misdemeanor), and two were charged with “engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with child,” a felony. All of the men’s names were publicized by media outlets.
In January 2017, two men were charged in Beltrami County court with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child after responding to online ads posted by undercover officers. The men were arrested in December 2016 and January 2017 in separate incidents. Each had responded to an ad posted by undercover Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents claiming to be underage girls interested in meeting for sex, according to criminal complaints against the men. The first man responded to a Craigslist ad posted by agents claiming to be a 14-year-old girl. He claimed to be 25 years old and allegedly sent the agent pictures of himself. The two agreed to meet in Bemidji, where Brown allegedly believed they would engage in sex acts. When Brown arrived at the agreed-upon address he was arrested. The complaint against the second man states that he responded to a similar ad posted on social media, in which a BCA agent claimed to be a female looking for a sexual relationship with a male. Agents texted with the suspect and indicated that he was communicating with a 15-year-old girl. He agreed to meet in Bemidji for sex, where he was arrested. Both arrests come after the Bemidji Police Department obtained a $47,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety meant to help fight human trafficking.
- Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office
- Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
- Bemidji Police Department
- Minnesota Department of Public Safety
- Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force
Web Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- “Police: Two Arrested, Two Cited in BPD Sex Sting,” Bemidji Pioneer, March 11 2015.
- “Two Bemidji Men Face Felony Charges for Seeking Sex with Minor,” Grand Forks Herald, March 11 2015.
- “Four Arrested in Bemidji Child Sex Trafficking Sting,” Minnesota Public Radio, March 12 2015.
- “Update: Two Bemidji Men Caught in Child Prostitution Sting,” NBC/KVLY-TV 11, March 12 2015.
- https://www.bemidjipioneer.com/news/4195541-two-men-charged-after-online-sting (2017)
Other Sex Buyer Arrests with Shaming:
- “Bemidji Man Arrested for Soliciting Prostitution,” Bemidji Pioneer, January 30 2014.
- “Minnesota Man Accused of Soliciting Prostitution at Walmart; A Bemidji Man Faces Charges after Being Accused of Soliciting Prostitution at Bemidji Walmart Store,” Duluth News Tribune, January 31 2014.
- “Minnesota Man Gets Jail Time for Soliciting Prostitution at Wal-Mart,” Duluth News Tribune, April 1 2014.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Law Enforcers Named in Sex Case,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 16 1998.
- “Bemidji, Minn. Man Admits Role in Prostitution,” Duluth News-Tribune, December 14 1998.
- “Forum Discusses Sexual Exploitation, Sex Trafficking in Bemidji Area,” Bemidji Pioneer, February 21 2014.
- https://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/news/4286113-park-rapids-man-charged-promoting-prostitution (2017)