St. Louis County, 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

St. Louis County is located in the northeastern portion of Minnesota. Its population is about 199,00, 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. 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 male sex buyers were arrested. In an effort to increase the focus on human trafficking, other tactics were 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 sex buyers and arresting them when they appeared at the hotel and offered to buy sex. In a subsequent reversal, police posted a fake ad and then arrested four more men 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 sex buyers 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 were waiting to be formally charged by the county attorney’s office. A similar operation in September 2021 resulted in the arrest of four men on charges of soliciting a minor.

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 Identity Disclosure since at least 2015):

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type County
Population 199182
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