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Burleigh County is a county of approximately 96,000 residents in North Dakota. It contains the state’s capitol city, Bismarck. The county has a history of problems associated with prostitution, and more recently has documented cases of sex trafficking. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is the sex trafficking of adults and minors. In February 2014, a 67-year-old man was arrested for prostituting his wife in Bismarck. In October 2021, a district court judge dismissed charges against a man accused of bringing a woman in prostitution and fentanyl to Burleigh County so that the trafficker could be indicted federally. In 2021, a 37-year-old man exchanged meth with a 38-year-old woman for sexual activity with a minor. Together the two injected the young girl with drugs before raping her.
In 2006, the discovery of untapped oil reserves in the Williston Basin drastically changed the entire state of North Dakota. Many men—often either single or with families in other states—moved to fill jobs with the oil fields, trucking services, and construction. Known as the “Bakken boom,” this influx of men coming to North Dakota to work in the oilfields lasted until about 2014. Unfortunately, the rapid population growth the state experienced during this time also resulted in a rampant commercial sex market.
In effort to reduce prostitution, the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has conducted reverse stings targeting sex buyers. One such sting happened in 2019, leading to the arrest of three male sex buyers and a substantial drug bust. One of the sex buyers was arrested after he arranged to meet an undercover deputy posing as a prostituted woman via social media. A search of his home netted three pounds of meth in his bedroom closet and $80,000 in cash. The man was arrested for a felony drug charge and a misdemeanor charge of hiring a person to engage in sexual activity. All sex buyer identities were included in reports by local media outlets.
Another reverse sting was conducted by the BCSO and Bureau of Criminal Investigations in January 2020. Three sex buyers were arrested after agreeing to pay a deputy posing as a 16-year-old girl for sex, and three more were arrested with solicitation after arranging to meet with who they thought was a woman over 18. Their identities were released in media reports.
Additional demand-reduction tactics such as “john schools” have been documented in the county. The area’s Demand Reduction Program (DRP), a partnership between 31:8 Project, North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, and the University of Mary, opened in 2017. After a slow start and lack of attendees due to low awareness and an underinvestment in demand-focused operations, 24 offenders (ranging from 20-54 years old) have completed the “john school” as of 2020.
The one-day, $500 program serves as an intermediate sentencing, diversion, and education option for offenders charged with purchasing prostitution (sex buyers) and is offered quarterly in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, and Watford City. Incorporating feedback from human trafficking survivors, the course raises awareness on the importance of implementing demand reduction efforts in order to combat prostitution and sex trafficking activity. Pre- and post-program tests are administered to assess changes in participant behaviors and/or perspectives.
- Cause of Human Trafficking: Connection between prostitution, trafficking, and criminal activity.
- Impacts of Human Trafficking on the Buyer: Legal ramifications, medical and health risks of further criminal activity.
- Impacts of Human Trafficking on the Victim: Connection between their criminal activity and health, psychological, and social impacts on the victim.
- Impacts of Human Trafficking on the Community: Local, regional, and global aspect.
- Developing Healthy Relationships and Communities: Conditions of healthy relationships, services available to aid individuals, responsibilities as a member of a community to develop healthy personal attitudes regarding intimacy and sexuality.
- Bismarck Police Department
- Burleigh County Sheriff’s Office
- Burleigh County District Attorney’s Office
- North Dakota Attorney General’s Office
- University of Mary
- 318 Project
- North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
- Burleigh County District Court
- Burleigh County Detention Center
- Bismarck Municipal Court
- North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation
- FUSE (North Dakota anti-trafficking coalition)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://kfgo.com/news/prostitution-sting-leads-to-meth-bust-in-mandan/ (2019)
- https://bismarcktribune.com/north-dakota-prostitution-sting-leads-to-meth-bust (2019)
- https://froggyweb.com/prostitution-sting-leads-to-meth-bust-in-mandan/ (2019)
- Drug bust result of prostitution sting (2019)
- https://www.grandforksherald.com/Major-Mandan-meth-bust-result-of-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.kxnet.com/news/local-news/prostitution-sting-leads-to-meth-bust/ (2019)
- https://www.newscenter1.tv/north-dakota-prostitution-sting-leads-to-meth-bust/ (2019)
- https://www.kfyrtv.com/Burleigh-County-Sheriffs-arrest-multiple-men-in-prostitution-sting (2019)
- Federal drug case postponed until March (2019)
- https://www.kfyrtv.com/Six-arrested-in-undercover-sex-sting-in-Bismarck (2020)
John School, Public Education:
- Trafficking: Know What to Look For (2015)
- New ND anti-prostitution program for ‘johns’ has no takers so far (2017)
- North Dakota’s State Attorney’s Office – Demand Reduction Program (2017)
- North Dakota Human Trafficking Commission Annual Report (2018)
- North Dakota Human Trafficking Commission Annual Report (2019)
- North Dakota Human Trafficking Commission Annual Report (2020)
- Reducing recidivism: how one program is decreasing demand for prostitution in the state (2020)
- 318 Project Demand Reduction Program (DRP)
Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Earning $2,000 a Night as a Boomtown Stripper”, CNN Money, October 25 2011.
- “Crime Turns Oil Boomtown into Wild Wild West”, CNN Money, October 26 2011.
- “Williston: The Town the Recession Forgot”, Advertising Age, October 31 2011.
- “Letters: The Negative Impacts of Oil”, Minot Daily News, November 13 2011.
- “Crime Overwhelming Law Enforcement in Oil Patch”, Great Plains Examiner, December 6 2011.
- “The Downside of N. Dakota’s Oil Boom”, CNBC, February 1 2012.
- “Oil Boom Creating Dark Side of Industry in North Dakota”, CBS/WCCO-TV 4, February 23 2012.
- “ND Officials to Attend Oil Patch Crime Summit”, Minot Daily News, March 12 2012.
- “Family Men Go It Alone in North Dakota’s Oil Fields”, New York Times, March 21 2012.
- “Prostitution in the Oil Patch”, Bismarck Tribune, March 31 2012.
- “As Bakken Oil Booms, Police Prepare for Change”, Dickinson Press, April 23 2012.
- “Oil Booms– And So Does Crime on the Plains”, Tampa Bay Times, April 23 2012.
- “ND Man Arrested on Charge of Pimping”, Dickinson Press, May 26 2012.
- “North Dakota’s Fossil Fuel Boom: Messy”, Grist Magazine, June 8 2012.
- “Oil Boom Brings Benefits, Problems”, Jamestown Sun, June 27 2012.
- “Prostitution Arrests Becoming Routine in North Dakota Oil Patch”, ABC/WDAY-TV 6, July 10 2012.
- “Human Trafficking Added to List of Crimes Affecting Native Americans”, Dickinson Press, July 18 2012.
- “Oil Patch Problem: Prostitution; from Williston to Dickinson, Authorities See Increase in Criminal Act”, Bakken Today, August 3 2012.
- “ND: Oil Puts the ‘Boom’ in Parts of the Economy Conservatives May Not Want to Think About”, Montana Watchdog, August 10 2012.
- “N.D. Man Sentenced for Human Trafficking”, Jamestown Sun, August 14 2012.
- “Letters: The Dark Side of the City”, Minot Daily News, August 19 2012.
- “Taylor Unveils Plan to Fight Crime”, Minot Daily News, September 18 2012.
- “Watford City Arrests Men in Prostitution Case”, Bismarck Tribune, November 5 2012.
- “Surrey Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KFYR-TV 5, November 30 2012.
- “Former Counselor Sentenced on Sex Crime Charge”, Jamestown Sun, December 12 2012.
- “Plea Deals Offered in Human Trafficking Case”, Jamestown Sun, January 4 2013.
- “8 Arrests in Prostitution Sting: 4 Dickinson Residents Among Those Booked”, Dickinson Press, January 8 2013.
- “Prostitution in Minot”, NBC/KMOT-TV 10, January 10 2013.
- “Woman Pleads Guilty to Prostitution”, Minot Daily News”, January 10 2013.
- “Alleged GF Pimp to Fight Human Trafficking Charge”, Jamestown Sun, January 11 2013.
- “An Oil Town Where Men Are Many, and Women Are Hounded”, New York Times, January 16 2013.
- “Purdon: Increased Population Associated with Boom Will Attract Organized Crime”, Jamestown Sun, January 23 2013.
- “GF Prostitution Sting Hooks Four”, Jamestown Sun, January 26 2013.
- “VIDEO: Prostitution Problem”, NBC/KUMV-TV 8, February 20 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting in Minot”, NBC/KFYR-TV 5, February 24 2013.
- “2nd Suspect Seeks Trial in Human Trafficking Case”, Jamestown Sun, March 5 2013.
- “‘The Darkest Evil’: Fargo Residents Work to Bring Awareness to Modern Slavery Crisis”, Fargo-Moorhead Inforum, March 7 2013.
- “Five Charged in Medora Prostitution Case”, Grand Forks Herald, March 7 2013.
- “Charging Ahead in the Bakken”, Minot Daily News, March 17 2013.
- “Two Arrested in Surrey Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KFYR-TV 5, March 18 2013.
- “Legislators Address Human Trafficking”, NBC/KULR-TV 8, March 24 2013.
- “Rise of Prostitution in Bakken Prompts Legislation”, Helena Independent-Record, March 24 2013.
- “Raising Awareness of Sex Trafficking in Montana”, KRTV-TV 3, April 4 2013.
- “Judge Gives Two Years of Probation to Woman in Grand Forks Pimping Case”, Jamestown Sun, April 25 2013.
- “VIDEO: Eight Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KFYR-TV 5, May 3 2013.
- “Man Sentenced for Promoting Prostitution in ND”, Jamestown Sun, June 2 2013.
- “Opinion: Ignore This Stuff at Your Own Peril”, Jamestown Sun, June 4 2013.
- “Prostitution Rises in the new Wild West: North Dakota’s Oil Country”, Mint Press News, January 7, 2014.
- “Washburn Man Pleads Guilty to Multiple Sexual Abuse Charges,” Bismarck Tribune, November 12 2013.
- https://www.jamestownsun.com/missouri-man-accused-of-prostituting-woman-from-china (2014)
- http://www.minotdailynews.com/news/local-news/2014/06/alleged-minot-pimp-arrested-in-bismarck/ (2014)
- “Wisconsin Man Held in North Dakota Human Trafficking Case,” Bismarck Tribune, June 23 2014.
- “Bismarck Hosts State’s First Summit on Human Trafficking,” Bismarck Tribune, November 13 2014.
- “Wahpeton Man Arrested for Human Trafficking,” Bismarck Tribune, December 15 2014.
- https://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/bechtle-gets-year-for-luring-minors.html (2015)
- “Ongoing Human Trafficking Cases,” Bismarck Tribune, January 4 2015.
- “Prosecutors, Police Gather in Bismarck for Human Trafficking Training,” Bismarck Tribune, January 20 2015.
- “Human Trafficking Suspect Tried to Chew off Fingerprints,” Williston Herald, January 6 2016.
- “Wisconsin Man and Woman Admit to Sex Trafficking,” ABC/WDAZ-TV 8, January 27 2016.
- https://www.kfyrtv.com/las-vegas-man-accused-bringing-fentanyl-sex-worker-bismarck-charged-federally (2021)
- “Does More Oil Mean More Crime?”, NBC/KFYR-TV 5, March 15 2011.
- “Unemployed? Go to North Dakota”, USA Today, August 28 2011.
- “Oil Boom Brought Us Money… And Pain”, CNN Money, October 20 2011.
- “Six Figure Salaries, But Homeless”, CNN Money, October 26 2011.
- “North Dakota Oil Boom Increases Crime, Costs, Road Mayhem”, Madville Times, November 29 2011.
- “North Dakota Oil Boom Brings Blight with Growth as Costs Soar”, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 1 2012.
- “North Dakota’s Oil Boom: The Dark Side”, ABC News, February 2 2012.
- “Inside the Belly of the Bakken”, Bozeman Magpie, July 1 2012.
- “ND Crime Rate Up”, CBS/KXMB-TV 12, July 2 2012.
- “North Dakota Oil Boom: Thousands Pin Their Dreams on Striking It Rich”, Guardian (U.K.), May 14 2012.
- “Williston, North Dakota Oil Boom Comes with Wealth, Worries”, Huffington Post, May 22 2012.
- “North Dakota Went Boom”, New York Times, February 3 2013.
- “Fastest Growing Boomtowns: Williston, N.D.”, CNN Money, March 19 2013.
- “ND Oil Patch No Wild West, Researcher Says”, Dickinson Press, May 26 2013.