Moorhead, 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

Moorhead is the largest city in northwestern Minnesota, with a population of roughly 45,000 residents, and is the county seat of Clay County. The city is situated along the Minnesota-North Dakota border and is the Minnesota portion of the Fargo, ND metropolitan area. Prostitution and sex trafficking are substantial issues in the area and have generated complaints from residents and businesses to local law enforcement agencies. The Moorhead Police Department, along with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Fargo Police Department (ND), and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office (ND), have reported prostitution to be a significant problem, particularly in local hotels and motels. Additionally, officers have reported a shift in the location of the area’s prostitution market from the streets to online. Among the more serious issues associated with the area’s prostitution market is child sex trafficking/exploitation. For example, police and advocacy groups reported that sex trafficking increased in the area due to the economic boom related to the Bakken oilfield production and the influx of male workers in the region. For example, in 2014, police arrested two men after they had allegedly been sex trafficking a 13-year-old girl online.

In an effort to reduce the demand for prostitution, the Moorhead Police Department has conducted periodic street-level reverse stings, and has released the names of arrested sex buyers since at least 2008. In April 2014, for example, two male sex buyers were arrested following a reverse sting a Moorhead hotel. Their identities were publicized by several media outlets.

In addition to street-level reverse stings, in response to the shift in online prostitution activity in the area, the MPD frequently conducts web-based reverse sting operations. For example, in May 2017, a man was charged in Clay County District Court in connection with an underage sex sting. The 60-year-old man faced one count of attempting to hire a person under the age of 18 but who is at least 16 years old for purposes of prostitution. Moorhead police were alerted by a North Dakota law enforcement agency that was participating in Operation Guardian Angel, a federal operation targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. According to reports, the suspect attempted to solicit sex from a decoy officer the sex buyer believed to be a 16-year-old girl. A meeting was set up in Woodlawn Park in Moorhead and a police detective was at the park when the suspect arrived.

Employment loss is also a consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in 1977, a Moorhead State University professor was suspended from his position after a student reported to police that the professor and another man had attempted to solicit her for prostitution as a way to pay her student debt. The student reported the incident to police, resulting in further investigation, and the arrest of an additional man on soliciting prostitution charges. The professor was charged with soliciting prostitution and conspiracy to solicit prostitution but was granted immunity if he testified against the other man.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss, Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 44668
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