St. Louis County, MN

Tactics Used

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

St. Louis County is located in the northeastern portion of Minnesota. Its population is about 200,00, and its county seat is Duluth. It is the largest county by total area in Minnesota, and the largest in the United States east of the Mississippi River.  Duluth has a population of about 86,000 residents.  Documented cases of prostitution and sex trafficking have occurred in the County, with Native American women and girls reported to be particularly vulnerable. To address these problems, law enforcement agencies have incorporated tactics that address underlying demand.

Street-level reverse stings have been used by the Duluth Police Department since 1999, initially in response to complaints from area residents and business owners. In a set of operations in 2003, 25 johns were arrested. In an effort to increase the focus on human trafficking, other tactics have been introduced beginning in 2009, such as auto seizure and web-based reverse stings. In November 2013, an effort to combat prostitution and sex trafficking included both stings and reverse stings. In the first operation in November, police responded to online ads for sex, arrested the prostituted women, and then “flipped” the operation by fielding the incoming phone calls from four johns and arresting them when they appeared at the hotel and offered to buy sex. In a subsequent reversal, police posted a bogus ad and then arrested four more johns who appeared and tried to buy sex from a police decoy.

In January 2019, three men were arrested in an undisclosed location in St. Louis County during a two-day investigation and sting for those committing online solicitation of minors. All three men were booked into the St. Louis County Jail, and no bail was immediately set.  The Duluth police, St. Louis County Attorney’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension worked together on the Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force sting, which resulted in the arrest of men aged 22 to 62 with in-state addresses in Britt, Grand Rapids, Deer River, Duluth, Silver Bay and Buffalo.  The three men in St. Louis County were arrested on the charge of engaging in hiring or agreeing to hire a minor to engage in prostitution. An additional man was arrested on the charge of distribute via electronic communication sexually explicit material to children. All of men are awaiting to be formally charged by the county attorney’s office.

Key Partners

  • Duluth Police Department
  • St. Louis County Attorney’s Office
  • Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
  • Superior Police Department
  • Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force

Key Sources

Reverse Stings (with Shaming since at least 2015):

Web-Based Reverse Stings and Shaming:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota

 

State Minnesota
Type County
Population 200000
Location
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