Minnesota’s Stearns County is located about 60 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. Cases of prostitution and sex trafficking, often arranged online, have been reported throughout the county, and within its municipalities such as St. Cloud and Waite Park. In December 2017, Stearns County received a two-year state grant to convert a year-old sex-trafficking task force to a full-time operation beginning in February, 2018. The Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs grant was awarded to the Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Investigative Task Force, which is comprised of two Waite Park and St. Cloud police investigators, a part-time Stearns County Sheriff’s Office detective, and a new crime analyst in the County Attorney’s Office. The St. Cloud metro area is an hour from the Twin Cities and off Interstate 94, making it an efficient region for traffickers to operate.
In 2016 a “john school” program for convicted sex buyers was established. The “Not Buying It” Demand Reduction School began offering classes in January of that year. 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. 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.
- Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Task Force
- Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center
- Web-Based Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- 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.
- http://www.startribune.com/new-task-force-to-help-stearns-county-crack-down-on-sex-trafficking (2017)
- 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.