Rapid City, SD

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Rapid City is the second-largest city in South Dakota, with a population of approximately 75,000, and serves as the government seat of Pennington County. It is set against the eastern slope of the Black Hills mountain range, and accommodates most of the tourist flow to Mt. Rushmore.  Prostitution, child sex trafficking, and pimping are known to occur in the city, and to address these problems, interventions targeting demand for commercial sex have been pursued.  Rapid City law enforcement has been conducting reverse stings since 2008, and have expanded their sting operations to include web-based stings.  They have also used surveillance cameras to deter men from buying sex.  A web-based reverse sting in February, 2013 resulted in the arrest of seven johns.  All were released and ordered to appear in court.  A similar operation in October, 2012 resulted in four arrests.  Hiring for sexual activity is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.  In November, 2013 four men were arrested by the Rapid City Police Department on misdemeanor charges of attempting to solicit prostituted women over the Internet, and the names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were released.

In September 2017, seven sex buyers were cited  in an undercover online sex trafficking operation by the Rapid City Police Department.  An undercover detective initially contacted two woman who were separately advertising massage and sexual services online, and after an investigation they were arrested and charged for the offenses of prostitution, practice of massage without a license, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a sales tax license violation.  The reverse sting portion of the operation involved detectives fielding calls responding to online posting that advertised commercial sex, arranging meetings, and arresting those who appeared and offered to buy sex. The identities of the sex buyers were publicly released.

In August 2018, six men were arrested as the result of a sex trafficking operation in the Rapid City area, which took place during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office worked in conjunction with law enforcement officials from Pennington County, Rapid City, Sturgis and the state Division of Criminal Investigation on the sting. The six men, ranging in age from 20 to 55, were charged with attempted enticement of a minor using the internet, which charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison upon conviction. In March 2021 two men were found guilty of sex crimes charges against minors stemming from the reverse sting operations conducted during the 2017 and 2019 Sturgis Motorcycle Rallies.  One was an Arizona resident who was found guilty of Attempted Commercial Sex Trafficking of a Minor and Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet committed during the 2017 Sturgis Rally. In multiple text messages with a person he believed was a pimp for a 15-year-old girl – but who was instead an undercover agent – he negotiated a time and place to meet to engage in sexual abuse of a minor. Upon arriving at the pre-determined location, he was met with law enforcement and taken into custody.

Key Partners

  • Rapid City Police Department
  • Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Department of Homeland Security

Key Sources

State South Dakota
Type City
Population 75258
Location
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