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Bemidji is a city of less than 15,000 residents, located in Minnesota’s Beltrami County, roughly halfway between Duluth and Grand Forks, North Dakota. The city abuts the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
Although reports of prostitution in the community remain limited, local law enforcement have initiated investigations targeting sex buyers. For example, in 2014 a Bemidji man was arrested and later sentenced to jail time for soliciting prostitution at a Wal-Mart store, after he approached multiple women and offered to pay them for sex.
Reverse stings have also been conducted in the city. 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 sex buyers 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 the days following the sting, a BPD representative reported to Minnesota Public Radio that the operation was “the first of its kind” for the department.
In June, 2021, six men were arrested during a human trafficking operation that took place over two days in Beltrami County. The Bemidji Police Department was among the collaborating agencies. During the operation, suspects responded to an ad on a sex advertisement website. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for a commercial sex crime. All were booked into the Beltrami County Jail on probable cause solicitation of prostitution of an adult. Investigators with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force led the operation in partnership with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Bemidji Police Department. The Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force was established in 2017 with funding from the Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs as a statewide enforcement effort to target traffickers and those exploiting children for sex.
- Bemidji Police Department
- Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office
- Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force
- Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force
- Minneapolis Police Department
- Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
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.
Web-Based Reverse Stings with 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://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Six-Arrested-During-Human-Trafficking-Operation.aspx (2021)
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.wctrib.com/news/3815766-man-charged-sex-trafficking-bemidji (2015)
- https://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/news/4286113-park-rapids-man-charged-promoting-prostitution (2017)
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