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Brainerd is a city of roughly 14,000 residents in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. It is the county seat of Crow Wing County, and is one of northern Minnesota’s largest cities. Prostitution has been a well documented local problem dating back to the 1800s, and sex trafficking continues to occur locally. Included in the range or responses have been efforts to combat consumer level demand for commercial sex. Between May and October 2015, area law enforcement agencies conducted multiple reverse sting operations, resulting in arrests and gross misdemeanor charges against 20 men for soliciting prostitution. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were released to news outlets. The operations involved police detectives placing decoy advertisements on a website known for its use in soliciting paid sex.
For example, in November 2015, a web-based reverse sting operation was conducted in Brainerd and resulted in the arrests of four men. The Brainerd Police Department reported the arrests came as part of an undercover operation at a Brainerd hotel with the Brainerd Lakes Area Sex Trafficking Team. The identities of the four men booked in the Crow Wing County Jail were released, and they were ordered to appear in court on gross misdemeanor soliciting prostitution in a public place. The men responded to online advertisements for escort services and then engaged in conversations and interaction with undercover police officers, where they solicited sex in exchange for money.
The four men arrested in the Brainerd reverse sting joined 16 others charged in 2015 in Crow Wing County as part of a focus by area law enforcement on sex trafficking in the region. Officers working together on the Brainerd sting were from the Baxter and Brainerd police departments and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office. By January 2017, nearly all of those cases had worked their way through the court system. Included in the sentences received were combinations of supervised probation, fines, and mandatory completion of a “john school” (the schools are designed to hold offenders accountable and provide them information that will reduce recidivism and collectively help to reduce demand for prostitution and sex trafficking victims). All of the men from the Brainerd operation were sentenced to two-year terms of probation, ordered to attend a “john school” program, and were fined from $1,760 to $2,075.
In August, 2019, five men were arrested and faced serious charges following a sex trafficking reverse sting targeting online solicitation of minors in Crow Wing County. The arrests were made in the Brainerd area, with authorities saying they targeted “individuals seeking to have sexual contact with juveniles under 15 years old.” According to a news release, all five of the suspects were local to the area. Investigators posed as a 14-year-old girl online to lure sexual predators; at least three of the men are accused of arranging to meet the fictional person for sexual abuse.
- Brainerd Lakes Area Sex Trafficking Team
- Brainerd Police Department
- BaxterPolice Department
- Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office
- Breaking Free
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, John School:
- http://www.grandforksherald.com/four-arrested-another-brainerd-lakes-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://minnesotanewsnetwork.com/2-men-arrested-in-brainerd-sex-trafficking-sting-2-more-face-charges/ (2015)
- http://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/brainerd-attorney-formally-charged-prostitution-sting-after-delay (2015)
- http://www.postbulletin.com/brainerd-man-faces-prostitution-related-charges (2015)
- https://www.twincities.com/ex-police-chief-among-8-charged-in-baxter-prostitution-sting/ (2015)
- https://www.fergusfallsjournal.com/johns-charged-in-northern-brainerd-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/former-aitkin-police-chief-pleads-guilty-to-soliciting-prostitution (2015)
- https://krocnews.com/brainerd-man-allegedly-sought-to-pimp-rochester-police-officer/ (2015)
- https://www.timesfreepress.com/police-arrest-11-men-and-women-during-prostitution-sting/ (2017)
- http://www.brainerddispatch.com/law-enforcement-sting-solicitation-cases-now-complete (2017)
- https://www.brainerddispatch.com/undercover-operation-leads-to-child-solicitation-charges-against-3-men (2019)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- http://www.crowwinghistory.org/soiled_doves.html (1800s)
- https://www.dglobe.com/saving-grace-foster-home-for-youth-sex-trafficking-survivors-to-open-in-brainerd (2016)
- https://sertoma.brainerd.com/newsletter-archive/ (2018)
- https://www.brainerddispatch.com/advocates-continue-efforts-against-sex-trafficking-in-lakes-area (2019)
- https://www.inforum.com/6-arrested-during-multi-agency-human-trafficking-operation-in-beltrami-county (2021)
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