Duluth, 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

Duluth is a city of approximately 86,000 residents located in Beltrami County, in northeastern Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior.  Documented cases of prostitution and sex trafficking have occurred in the city, with Native American women and girls reported to be particularly vulnerable.  To address these and other problems inevitably generated by prostitution, law enforcement have incorporated tactics that address the underlying consumer demand that provides the revenue (and thus the motivation) for all sex trafficking and prostitution.

Street-level reverse stings have been used by the Duluth Police Department since 1999, initially in response to complaints from area residents and business owners.  In a set of operations in 2003, 25 male sex buyers were arrested.  In an effort to increase the focus on human trafficking, other tactics have been introduced beginning in 2009, such as auto seizure and web-based reverse stings. In November 2013, an effort to combat prostitution and sex trafficking included both stings and reverse stings.  In the first operation in November, police responded to online ads for sex, arrested the prostituted women, and then “flipped” the operation by fielding the incoming phone calls from four male sex buyers and arresting them when they appeared at the hotel and offered to buy sex.  In a subsequent reversal, police posted a bogus ad and then arrested four more men who appeared and tried to buy sex from a police decoy.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, in June, 2021, Enbridge Energy officials said that two of its employees who were working on the Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota were fired after they were arrested in a prostitution sting in Beltrami County. The two employees were among six men arrested after responding to an ad on a sex advertisement website, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said. The suspects were apprehended after showing up at an arranged meeting place.

Key Partners

  • Duluth Police Department
  • Superior Police Department
  • Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force
  • Enbridge Energy

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Reverse Stings (with Identity Disclosure Since at Least 2015):

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 86372
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