Cottage Grove, MN

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

Cottage Grove is a city of approximately 40,000 residents, located just south of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Washington County, Minnesota. Prostitution activity, at times involving minors, has been reported in the city for years. In October 2015, for example, a 43-year-old man was arrested and charged with “engaging in prostitution with a 16-year-old and agreeing to hire a 16-year-old for prostitution, both felonies,” after responding to a listing placed by a minor Cottage Grove resident on The man reportedly paid the girl twice for access to sexually abuse her; law enforcement became involved after a Minneapolis Police Department officer encountered the Backpage advertisement placed by the minor. Authorities reached out to the girl, who coordinated with law enforcement and arranged to meet the sex buyer for a third encounter. He was apprehended by Cottage Grove Police Department officers after attempting to meet the girl at a Cottage Grove gas station. Disturbingly, the Grand Forks Herald reported that, “during a search of [the buyer’s] vehicle, police found a new tarp lining the trunk and rubber gloves and an empty suitcase.” In April 2016, the South Washington County Bulletin reported that the offender had pleaded guilty to underage prostitution (i.e., child sex trafficking) and child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse materials) charges.

In their efforts to curtail prostitution in the area, local law enforcement have also conducted at least one “traditional” reverse sting. In August 2010, agents from the Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement Team coordinated with officers from the Cottage Grove and Woodbury Police Departments to conduct a web sting at a local hotel. During the investigation, officers placed a decoy listing to a website known for prostitution. As men responded to the listing, an undercover officer arranged to meet them at the hotel. According to news reports, law enforcement “asked to use the hotel as part of the undercover operation and were not responding to any reported prostitution activity at the hotel.” The arrestees were booked and released on a gross misdemeanor charge. In the days that followed, all of the offenders’ names and other identifying information were publicized by local media outlets.

Key Partners

  • Cottage Grove Police Department
  • Woodbury Police Department
  • Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement Team
State Minnesota
Type City
Population 39926
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