Dickinson, 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

Dickinson is a city of approximately 23,000 located along Interstate 94 in western North Dakota. It is the county seat of Stark County. 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. On any given day in 2015, you could find 150-200 sex ads on Backpage.com in North Dakota, with oil cities such as Williston and Minot containing the largest percentage of these ads.

In response to complaints from citizens and businesses, police have implemented various tactics focused on targeting the demand for commercial sex in the area. For example, in January 2013, the Dickinson Police Department (DPD) conducted a web-based reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of seven male sex buyers. The charges were on  “suspicion of hiring an individual to engage in sexual activity”—a class B misdemeanor in North Dakota punishable by a $1,000 dollar fine and up to 30 days in jail. DPD didn’t confirm where the arrests were made, but the department reported several police responses to prostitution complaints at a local hotel the same weekend. News of the arrests was distributed in an official press release containing the identities of the sex buyers. Police credited calls from the community with providing information necessary to launch the undercover operation.

The DPD, in collaboration the Williston Police Department and federal prosecutors, conducted another web-based reverse sting targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money in the fall of 2013. Federal authorities posted a decoy ad of an underage girl on websites known for prostitution and sex trafficking. According to media reports, each of the arrested men had allegedly attempted to pay for commercial sex acts with a girl they believed to be 14-years-old. Three men were arrested in Williston and 11 were arrested in Dickinson.

In August 2021, the DPD partnered with the Grand Forks Police Department and arrested three men following a human trafficking operation targeting prostitution. The three men were arrested and charged with hiring an individual to engage in sexual activity. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Homeland Security Investigations also assisted in this operation. In September, 2022, two men were arrested after Dickinson police conducted a prostitution sting. The men responded to online ads and agreed to pay for sex before they were arrested by undercover officers. Both men are charged with misdemeanor solicitation of sex, and were placed in custody at the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center.

The city has also utilized loss of employment as a consequence of buying sex. In 2013, the sports editor for The Dickinson Press was one of two men arrested in Burleigh County in a child sex trafficking operation. The editor was initially charged with Class A felony of attempted human trafficking but it was later changed to a federal charge for attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. As a result of his arrest, he was fired from his position at the newspaper. His identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

Neighborhood action has also been reported in the city. For example, in 2015, Dickinson hotel owners began requiring individuals to register at the front desk prior to renting a room. They also banned known prostituted women and sex buyers from renting rooms in an effort to deter commercial sex activity in the area.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State North Dakota
Type City
Population 22880
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