Blue Earth County, MN
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Blue Earth County has a populaiton of about 67,000 and is situated southwest of Minneapolis, and abuts Nicollet and Le Sueur counties in central Minnesota. Located at the juncture of U.S. Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 169, law enforcement has reported prostitution activity– as well as incidents of sex trafficking and prostitution-related robberies– in the county for many years. 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 January 2015, officers with the Mankato Department of Public Safety, New Ulm Police Department and Blue Earth and Nicollet County Sheriff’s Offices coordinated to conduct a reverse sting targeting sex buyers. During the investigation, a “cooperating individual” placed a decoy advertisement to a website known for commercial sex; she then arranged to meet the men who responded to the listing at a Mankato hotel. Five male sex buyers were arrested as a result; their names, ages and hometowns were released to the public. In the days following the operation, media reported that four of the five men arrested had been served both felony and misdemeanor solicitation charges, since the hotel where they were arrested was close to a city park. In a public statement, a representative with the Mankato DPS reported that law enforcement launched the sting as “part of a statewide effort to crack down on the sexual exploitation of women and girls,” with “the goal to eliminate the demand for prostitutes.” She added:
“Law enforcement recognizes our city and surrounding communities are not immune to this. These girls and women are being victimized by exploitation. We’re not just out to make arrests, but we’re looking to educate the community.”
In June 2015, the NCSO and Mankato law enforcement conducted a second web-based reversal, this time targeting individuals attempting to purchase sex from minors. Ten sex buyers were arrested as a result of the investigation, staged at a Mankato hotel. All of the men’s identities were publicized in press. When asked about the sting by the St. Peter Herald, a NCSO representative noted:
“We were surprised by the amount of demand… Within five minutes after posting the Backpage.com online advertisement, calls came into investigators. We stopped at 10 [sex buyers], but we could have arrested many more.”
In 2016, three individuals were arrested in North Mankato during a web-based reverse sting. Investigators from the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office and Detectives from North Mankato, New Ulm, and Mankato Department of Public Safety collaborated on the operation, which focused on people seeking sex with juveniles. Police used the internet to pose as juveniles, and three suspects agreed to trade sex for money. The decoy online ad let people know that girls were young, and when told over the phone or texts that the girls were 15 to 16 years old, one responded by saying ‘perfect’. All three arrested were over 30 years of age, one was from out of state and two are from the area.
In March, 2017 two men were arrested in child sex trafficking stings, and the men were charged with solicitation of prostitution with a minor. They were charged in Blue Earth County and all criminal complaints will be available through the Blue Earth County Court Administrators Office. The sexual exploitation investigations were supported by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in conjunction with a grant from the Office of Justice programs. Investigators and Officers from the following agencies assisted in these arrests: Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office, Mankato Department of Public Safety, Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office, New Ulm Police Department and the Mapleton Police Department
In October, 2017 five men were arrested and taken into custody in the Blue Earth County Jail on charges related to underage prostitution. Four were held on suspicion of “engaging a prostitute under the age of 13,” and the other was held on suspicion of prostitution with someone 16 to 17-years-old. All five were booked into the jail, with the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office listed as the arresting agency. Their identities were included in news reports. Police say the operation took place in Madison Lake, with law enforcement using the Internet to pose as prostitutes where six suspects agreed to buy sex for money or narcotics. One individual fled during the operation and remained at large. After posting the one ad online, police received calls and text messages from over 150 different individuals. Between November of 2014 and March 2017, 105 individuals had been arrested for prostitution related offenses in Nicollet, Brown and Blue Earth counties.
- Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office
- Mankato Department of Public Safety
- Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office
- New Ulm Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Mankato Police Conduct Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, January 9 2015.
- “Mankato Prostitution Sting Snags 5 Men,” Mankato Free Press, January 9 2015.
- “Prostitution Sting Heightens Awareness of Sex Trafficking,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, January 12 2015.
- “Prostitution Suspects Face Felony Charges,” Mankato Free Press, January 13 2015.
- “Suspects Formally Charged in Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, January 13 2015.
- “One Man Lured into Prostitution Sting Pleads Guilty,” Mankato Free Press, January 15 2015.
- “Two Suspects Plead Guilty in Prostitution Sting,” Mankato Free Press, June 2 2015.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 10 Charged in Nicollet County,” St. Peter Herald, June 17 2015.
- http://www.nujournal.com/news/local-news/2017/03/01/prostitution-sting-nets-four/ (2017)
- http://www.myklgr.com/2017/10/02/five-jailed-in-mankato-underage-prostitution-charges-pending/ (2017)
Sex Trafficking in the Area:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Alleged Prostitute Nabbed,” Mankato Free Press, May 16 2009.
- “Woman Charged in Prostitution Sting,” Mankato Free Press, August 18 2009.
- “Mankato Woman Facing Prostitution Charges,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, October 23 2009.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in Charges,” Mankato Free Press, January 12 2010.
- “Bloomington Woman Charged in Mankato Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, March 22 2010.
- “Man Claims to Be Robbed of Sex Payment,” Mankato Free Press, January 12 2011.
- “Two Arrested on Prostitution Charges,” CBS/KEYC-TV 12, January 12 2011.
- “911 Caller Said Prostitute Failed to Deliver,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 14 2011.
- http://www.thelandonline.com/alleged-prostitute-charged-with-welfare-fraud (2017)
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