Lincoln County, South Dakota has a population of about 55,000, and its county seat is the city of Canton. Part of Sioux Falls is within the county, and other substantial towns include Tea. Prostitution activity have been well-documented within the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in 2009, a Tea couple was accused of using their home as a base for an underage sex trafficking operation. They were accused in federal court of conspiring to sell the services of at least three children for prostitution through online ads. The arrests of the couple came after a six-month investigation initiated by a tip to local police. The investigation included the FBI, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department. In another case, one man was indicted for operating a sex trafficking operation in and around Sioux Falls from mid-2011 until late June 2012. According to the office of U.S. Attorney, his victims included multiple local women and girls. He advertised the victims on Backpage.com, drove them to various hotels and motels, and collected all or some of the proceeds of the commercial sex acts. In 2013, he was sentenced the life imprisonment on three sex trafficking counts and additional sentences on other charges. The FBI has identified the Twin Cities area as one of the nation’s 13 largest centers for child prostitution. In October 2019, two Tea residents were arrested in Sioux Falls on prostitution and pimping charges. Police responded to an internet ad and planned to meet with the people at a local hotel. Officers arrested a woman on prostitution and a man on pimping charges. There was no evidence of human trafficking because it appeared the two were in a relationship and had an agreement to share the money.
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 November 2010, one man charged with paying for sex in a Tea-based Internet prostitution ring reached a plea agreement. A Sioux Falls doctor agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Prosecutors dropped other charges as part of the plea agreement. The drug count stems from prescriptions for Oxycontin that the doctor wrote for the man who operated the ring. The original charges accused the man of paying for sex with underage girls and writing an Oxycontin prescription for a Tea resident indicted in a sex ring involving children. The man had plead not guilty in August in federal court to child sex trafficking charges and drug counts.
In February 2019, the Sioux Falls Police Department announced a commitment to operations intended to deter sex buyers and reduce the demand for commercial sex, as a means of reducing problems associated with prostitution and human trafficking. Sioux Falls police posted decoy ads for commercial sex and had responses from over 100 individuals. The police efforts are part of a comprehensive push to address sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, which includes victims service programs, and a human trafficking awareness conference held in March 2019.
- Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
- Sioux Falls Police Department
- South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
- Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department
Arrest and Shaming of Online Sex Buyer:
- https://siouxcityjournal.com/doctor-reaches-plea-deal-in-s-d-prostitution-ring (2010)
- https://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/1680151 (2010)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- https://siouxcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/south-dakota/sex-ring-alleged-in-sioux-falls-suburb (2009)
- https://www.argusleader.com//human-trafficking-backyard (2015)
- https://www.ksfy.com/Tea-residents-arrested-on-prostitution-pimping (2018)
- https://www.keloland.com/man-and-woman-from-tea-charged-with-prostitution (2018)