St. Cloud is a city of approximately 67,000 residents, located in central Minnesota’s Stearns County about 60 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. Cases of prostitution and sex trafficking, often arranged online, have been reported in the community.
On at least two occasions, local law enforcement have targeted johns for arrest. In June 2015, officers with the Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Task Force intercepted a man after he allegedly responded to an online advertisement placed by law enforcement. The ad suggested a 20-year-old woman was available for prostitution; in communications with an undercover officer, however, the john reportedly arranged for commercial sex acts with both the “20-year-old” and what he thought was her 16-year-old “friend.” He was arrested after arranging to meet the girls at a St. Cloud-area motel. His name was publicized in press. In November 2015, the St. Cloud Times reported the offender had pleaded guilty to a”felony count of attempting to hire a prostitute between the ages of 16-17,” and had been sentenced to 45 days in jail. Times reporters also indicated that the john’s arrest was “one of dozens made by the task force during undercover operations in the St. Cloud area… most [of which] involved men trying to hire adult prostitutes.”
In early March 2016, CMSTTF officers intercepted a second offender using similar tactics. Law enforcement placed an online advertisement for a fictitious adult sex seller and her “friend.” A man replied to the listing, and “asked an undercover officer posing as [a] 22-year-old if her friend was over 18. The officer said the girl was 17 but would be 18 in a few months.” The john communicated an offer of cash for sex with both females, and arranged to meet at an undisclosed location in St. Cloud. When he arrived, he was apprehended by law enforcement. His name and mugshot, as well as the felony prostitution charge levied against him, were publicized in press.
In 2016 a “john school” program for convicted sex buyers was established. The “Not Buying It” Demand Reduction School began offering classes in March of that year. As of late 2018, the program is called “Men Accountable for Sexual Exploitation (MASE). The program is provided by the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center, and classes are held periodically at the Waite Park Police Department Training Room. The class must be completed as a condition of a sentence (and is not an optional diversion program that can lead to dropped charges). The one-day program features seven hours of instruction on topics including:
- Negative consequences of the sex industry.
- Survivors discussing the impact of offenders’ exploitation.
- Attitudes, behaviors, and social forces that lay the foundation for abuse and exploitation.
- Health concerns.
- Legal and criminal consequences of solicitation.
- Recognizing and interrupting their individual thought and decision-making process to prevent re-offense (relapse prevention.
The class cost is $750, payable at the beginning of class, and the proceeds fund victim services for survivors of sexual violence and exploitation served at CMSAC. If needed, participants must arrange to provide their own certified interpreter. Certificates of completion are provided after successful participation at the end of the class, and participants are responsible for providing that proof of completion to their probation officers.
- Web-Based Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “Man Sentenced for Soliciting Girl, 16,” St. Cloud Times, November 6 2015.
- “Man Charged after Prostitution Sting Arrest,” St. Cloud Times, March 11 2016.
- https://www.sctimes.com/3-men-charged-soliciting-sex-child-law-enforcement-sting (2018)
- http://knsiradio.com/news/local-news/police-man-wanted-pay-prostitute-fake-money (2019)
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “As Sex Trafficking Case Hits Court, Probes Continue,” Bemidji Pioneer, March 17 2015.
- “As St. Cloud Sex-Trafficking Case Hits Court, Inquiries Continue,” St. Paul Pioneer-Press, March 17 2015.
- “Man Sentenced for Promoting Prostitution,” St. Cloud Times, August 7 2015.
- “Stearns County Judge Deliberating in Prostitution Case,” WJON-AM 1240, January 13 2016.
- “Judge Finds Man Guilty of Trafficking,” St. Cloud Times, January 20 2016.
- https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/60-year-old-faces-charges-soliciting-prostitution-16-year-old (2018)
- https://www.sctimes.com/2018/11/08/st-cloud-man-arrested-suspicion-prostitution-sex-trafficking-minnesota (2018)
- http://knsiradio.com/news/local-news/police-man-pimped-woman-jail (2018)
- http://knsiradio.com/news/local-news/two-guilty-selling-teen-sex (2018)
- http://www.kvsc.org/archive/news-detail/st-cloud-man-arrested-on-sex-trafficking-charges (2018)
- John School Program:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Charges: Man Promoted Prostitution,” St. Cloud Times, October 12 2015.
- “Sex Trafficking Sting Leads to Arrest of St. Cloud Man,” ABC/KSTP-TV 5, October 12 2015.
- “Man Charged with Soliciting Women for Prostitution,” WJON-AM 1240, October 13 2015.
- “City Approves Sex Trade Ordinance,” St. Cloud Times, December 7 2015.