Cottage Grove, MN
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Cottage Grove is a city of approximately 35,000 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 Backpage.com. The man had reportedly paid the girl twice for sex acts; 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 john 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 john’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 and child pornography charges.
In their efforts to curtail commercial sex sales 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.
- Cottage Grove Police Department
- Woodbury Police Department
- Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement Team
- Arrest and Shaming of John for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor:
- Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Teacher Among Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” ABC/KSTP-TV 5, August 8 2010.
- “Nine Men Arrested in Prostitution Ring in Cottage Grove,” NBC/KARE-TV 11, August 24 2010.
- “Hotel Helped in Prostitution Sting; River Falls Man Arrested,” River Falls Journal, August 26 2010.
- “9 Men in Cottage Grove Sex Sting Are Charged,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 25 2010.
- “Escort Evolution Moves Sex Trade to the Suburbs,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 20 2011.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Charges: Underage Prostitution Suspect Had Tarp, Suitcase and Gloves in Trunk,” Grand Forks Herald, October 2 2015.
- “Washington County Announces Sex Trafficking Unit,” CBS/WCCO-TV 4, November 18 2015.
- “Maple Grove Man Pleads Guilty to Three Charges in Underage Prostitution Bust in Cottage Grove,” South Washington County Bulletin, April 4 2016.
- https://kstp.com/news/blaine-man-accused-of-playing-role-in-sex-trafficking-ring-sentenced-dongzhu-jiang (2018)
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