Burleigh County, ND

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

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.

John School

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 ProjectNorth 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 BismarckFargoGrand ForksMinot, 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.

Program Curriculum:

  • 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.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

John School, Public Education:

Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:


State North Dakota
Type County
Population 95509
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