Rochester, MN

Tactics Used

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

Rochester is a city of roughly 111,000 residents, located about an hour’s drive south of St. Paul in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been reported in the city for several years, as have cases of assaults and robberies on sex sellers and buyers.

In an effort to reduce such activity in the city, the Rochester Police Department has targeted sex buyers for arrest since at least the mid- to late 1980s. In one early operation, conducted in September 1987, RPD detectives identified and dismantled a local escort service and then arranged to have calls re-routed to the police station. As johns contacted the officers and made an offer of money for sex, they were charged with solicitation.

In 2011, Rochester Police began using web-based reverse stings to intercept individuals attempting to purchase sex online. Since that time, officers have conducted several large-scale operations, often placing decoy advertisements suggesting prostitution with both adult women and minor girls to sites known for such listings. In August 2014, the RPD announced the conclusion of “Operation Aware,” a three-month investigation that aimed to identify “those offering to hire persons (both juveniles and adults) for prostitution, people who promote/profit from prostitution and victims of prostitution.” As a result, eleven adults were charged with “offering to hire a person 15-17 years of age for prostitution, and eight [individuals were charged with] offering an adult for prostitution.”

The names, ages, and addresses of the arrested sex buyers are periodically released to the public following investigations, but are often not reported until the individual has been convicted or plead guilty to the charge.

Beginning in 2011, Olmsted County District Court judges also began requiring sex buyers who are arrested for the first time to attend “john school” classes conducted in St. Paul by Breaking Free, a nonprofit organization that assists women and girls who have been involved in prostitution.

On at least two occasions, a convicted john has been sentenced to community service for solicitation of prostitution. In July 2015, a Rochester resident pled guilty to prostitution-for-hire after being intercepted in a 2014 web-based reverse sting targeting individuals attempting to purchase sex from minors. The sex buyer was sentenced to probation, community service, and electronic home monitoring. According to media reports, he was also “he “ordered to attend a sex offender program and to register as a predatory offender.” Later that same month, a second john was sentenced to “one year in jail, stayed for a year, and [required] to complete a Men Who Use Prostituted Women Program,” or john school.


Key Partners

Key Sources

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 110742
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