Oakdale, 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

Oakdale is a city of about 28,000 residents, located just northeast of St. Paul in Washington County, Minnesota. Sex trafficking has been well-documented in the city. For example, in 2011, an Oakdale woman who was a substitute teacher for a special-education school in North St. Paul was arrested and charged with soliciting an individual to practice prostitution and engaging in sex trafficking of an individual after taking photos of a student with developmental disabilities in lingerie, posting them online, and suggesting the student perform sex acts for money. There have also been local cases of prostituted women being assaulted by pimps. To address these issues, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking.

Public education and neighborhood action are two tactics to address demand that have occurred in Oakdale. For example, in 2017 a group of concerned citizens in Washington County formed Citizens Against Sex Trafficking (C.A.S.T.) as a complement to the East Metro Human Trafficking Task Force, which was established in 2015 to investigate and prosecute labor and sex trafficking operations. C.A.S.T. focuses on preventing sexual exploitation through community awareness and education around trafficking and changing mindsets that lead to the demand for commercial sex. Statistics on local sex trafficking from the East Metro Human Trafficking Task Force are listed on C.A.S.T.’s website, noting that from 2016-2018 there were 84 sex buyers charged in Washington County.

In January 2019, C.A.S.T. hosted a panel discussion in Oakdale that included the Washington County Attorney, Oakdale Police Chief, Ramsey County Attorney, and Dakota County Attorney as speakers. The Washington County Attorney discussed local sex trafficking and explained that the people arrested for seeking commercial sex were often neighbors. The Oakdale Police Chief warned that sex buyers were not necessarily a “creepy guy down on the corner,” but “to a large extent, the buyers of these services are white, middle-aged males who are employed.” The panel pinned the existence of the commercial sex industry on one thing: demand. The Ramsey County Attorney said some of the largest obstacles in fighting sex trafficking were cultural, things that have been “baked-in” our society. He explained the need to get more men involved in prevention:

“We still have this issue and will continue to have it for the next 40 years unless we as a community, as a culture … start thinking about how we raise boys … and think about doing some of that prevention work…If we were to post an ad somewhere on the internet today, I assure you that within two minutes that phone would start ringing, and we’d probably pick up about 160 calls from that one ad in an eight-hour shift.”

At least one web-based reverse sting has also been conducted in the city. In June 2021, seven men were charged with sex trafficking-related crimes after they were caught seeking sex with minors in an operation meant to decrease demand for commercial sex online. The web-based sting was conducted by the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force, which includes the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Attorney’s Office, Woodbury Police Department, Oakdale Police Department, and investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Law enforcement posted decoy ads on known commercial sex websites and social media apps posing as a 15-year-old girl. After respondents agreed to pay for a sex act they were directed to meet the undercover officer at an apartment in Oakdale, where they were arrested. The release about the operation noted that the number of men who contacted the ad “surprised even the most seasoned sex trafficking detectives.” Charges included prostitution of a child ages 13-16 and engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child. The men’s names, ages, and hometowns were released to the press.

Key Partners

  • East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force
  • Oakdale Police Department
    • Oakdale Police Chief
  • Washington County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington County Attorney’s Office
    • Washington County Attorney
  • Woodbury Police Department
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Cottage Grove Police Department
  • Citizens Against Sex Trafficking (C.A.S.T.)
  • Ramsey County Attorney
  • Dakota County Attorney

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Public Education, Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 27925
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