Minneapolis, MN

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have had well-documented, persistent problems with prostitution and sex trafficking for decades.  Collateral crimes have included the rape, assault, and murder of prostituted and trafficked women.  The city was the site of a serial killer who specifically targeted prostituted women.  Various agencies and nonprofit organizations have engaged in a wide range of activities designed to reduce the prevalence and negative impacts of illegal commercial sex.  Many of these efforts have attempted to address the chief cause of both prostitution and sex trafficking: consumer-level demand.

Reverse stings have been conducted since at least the 1980s (and probably before). Some of the recent reversals have been large-scale. For example, a recent operation in the 3rd precinct of Minneapolis ended with dozens of alleged customers being cited and more than 20 vehicles being seized.  Officers with the Third Precinct Community Response Team conducted a 6-day undercover “john” detail from July 12 to July 17 in response to neighborhood complaints of increased prostitution activity. The sting netted 53 alleged customers, and police also made a handful of arrests for other offenses.  “This is a crime that impacts the entire community and we recognize that sex buyers perpetuate an exploitative industry,” said Third Precinct Inspector Michael Sullivan. “Our officers did an excellent job re-enforcing that this illegal activity will not be tolerated in the City of Minneapolis.”  Officers focused on the Lake St East Corridor between 3rd Ave South and 17th Ave South.  Most of the details were conducted at night and during the lunch hour.  Along with the citations issued, 23 vehicles were seized, and in Minneapolis, there is a forfeiture process in which vehicles used in the commission of certain crimes could be surrendered by owners and liquidated by the city.

The Twin Cities are among the pioneers of programming designed to combat demand for commercial sex. A St. Paul program started the first brief treatment program in 1988 (Intervention Program for men who use prostitutes), preceded only by the John Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which began in 1981. The Twin Cities have had two programs running concurrently, one led by Steve Sawyer (a brief treatment program started in 1988) and one by Vednita Carter (Breaking Free, beginning in 2000). The program run by Mr. Sawyer accepts referrals from cities throughout the Minneapolis/ St. Paul metropolitan region and outside of the state of Minnesota. A second version of the intervention Program partners with a community restorative justice program in Minneapolis ( Restorative Justice Community Action) to combine brief therapy with community service. The Breaking Free program began accepting men arrested in Rochester and Olmsted County, Minnesota, in 2011, and has accepted referrals from Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as other communities throughout Minnesota.

Loss of employment is another consequence of purchasing sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in June, 2015, a Minneapolis teacher was charged with soliciting a prostituted person, who was actually an undercover officer. He had been arrested in May and booked into the Hennepin County jail, where he was released several hours later. A letter to Washburn families from the Principal said the man was on leave until the end of the school year and did not explain why.  He did not return to the faculty after 2015.  Member confirmed that the man remained on administrative leave, but said that could change in light of official charges. The teacher faced one count of solicitation of a prostitute and one count of loitering with intent to participate in prostitution, both misdemeanors. The teacher’s Web page, which was taken down, said the man had been teaching in Minneapolis since 2005 and at Washburn since 2007. According to the criminal complaint, he had pulled up to the corner of 12th Avenue S. and E. Lake Street, and an undercover officer standing nearby approached his vehicle. The man rolled down his window and asked how much she was looking for. The undercover officer told him “$100 for everything,” but he countered with an offer of $60. She accepted and the teacher was immediately arrested.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

Breaking Free John School Program:

Project Pathfinder John School Program (No longer operating):

  • Sawyer, S., Simon Rosser, B.R., & Schroeder, A.  (1998). A brief psychoeducational program for men who patronize prostitutes.  Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 26 ¾:111-125.
  • Sawyer, S., Metz, M.E., Hinds, J.D., & Brucker, R.A.  (2001). Attitudes towards prostitution among males: A “consumers’ report.”  Current Psychology, 20(4):363-376.

Sawyer Solutions Treatment Program  (Successor to the Project Pathfinder program)

Reverse Stings:

Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer:


Loss of Employment:

Auto Seizure:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 420324
Comments are closed.