Howard Lake, 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

Howard Lake is a city in Wright County, Minnesota with a population of about 2,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Wright County. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local prostitution market is sex trafficking.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in April 2019 the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) announced that 47 people were arrested and faced felony charges for attempting to purchase access to sexually abuse children or trafficking victims. The BCA-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force conducted the operation in several Twin Cities communities over four days. Suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents and investigators who posed as minors or as sex buyers. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter. Suspects were booked into the Hennepin, Anoka, or Ramsey county jails and their cases were submitted for charging. The names of all arrestees were released by the BCA several days after the arrests. The 47 arrestees were booked on charges including felony solicitation of a minor or solicitation of prostitution under 16 years of age and 11 people were booked on probable cause sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution. The operation was carried out by personnel from 33 criminal justice agencies and was part of the ongoing work of the Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. The Task Force is led by the BCA and includes investigators from the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Buffalo police departments, the Anoka and Hennepin County sheriff’s offices, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Many Task Force affiliate agencies lent resources to this particular effort, including the police departments of Howard Lake, Bemidji, Blaine, Brooklyn Park, Cambridge, Coon Rapids, Duluth, Maplewood, Owatonna, Rochester, Thief River Falls, and Upper Sioux, and the sheriff’s offices of Crow Wing, Kanabec, and Pope counties. Additional agencies provided expertise and resources including the Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Oakdale, Plymouth, St. Cloud, and Woodbury police departments, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Hennepin and Washington County attorney’s offices, and the BCA-led Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Several victim advocate organizations also provided services during victim recoveries, including Alexandria House, Breaking Free, and The Link.

In July 2019, the Howard Lake Police Department participated in a sex trafficking sting operation led by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. The two-day undercover operation in the Twin Cities metro area led to the arrests of 11 people (3 arrested for sex trafficking or promotion of prostitution, and 8 arrested for solicitation of a minor or solicitation of prostitution with a person under 16 years of age). In addition to the arrests, the operation led to 18 trafficking victims being recovered from trafficking situations and offered services. The Task Force conducted the operation in partnership with local agencies including the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office, Blaine Police Department, Bloomington Police Department, Brooklyn Park Police Department, Buffalo Police Department, Coon Rapids Police Department, Howard Lake Police Department, Minneapolis Police Department, City of Rochester Police Department, Saint Paul Police Department, Upper Sioux Police Department, and investigators from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

Key Partners

  • BCA – Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force
  • Howard Lake Police Department
  • Anoka County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Isanti County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office
  • Blaine Police Department
  • Bloomington Police Department
  • Brooklyn Park Police Department
  • Buffalo Police Department
  • Coon Rapids Police Department
  • Upper Sioux Police Department
  • Ramsey County Attorney’s Office
State Minnesota
Type City
Population 2125
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