Thief River Falls, 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

Thief River Falls, also called Thief River or TRF, is a city in Pennington County, Minnesota. The population is just under 9,000, according to the 2020 census. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Pennington County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response.  For example, in April, 2019 the Thief River Falls police department participated in a task force operation that occurring in April, 2019 and resulted in the arrest of dozens of people who were booked on charges of felony solicitation of a minor or solicitation of prostitution under 16 years of age.  The operation occurred at multiple locations in the greater Twin Cities region.  The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) announced that 47 people were arrested and faced felony charges for attempting to purchase sex with children or for trafficking victims. The BCA-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force conducted the operation in several Twin Cities communities over four days. Suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents and investigators who posed as minors or as sex buyers. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter.  Suspects were booked into the Hennepin, Anoka or Ramsey county jails and their cases were submitted for charging. The names of all arrestees were released by the BCA several days after the arrests.  The 47 arrestees were booked on charges including felony solicitation of a minor or solicitation of prostitution under 16 years of age and 11 people were booked on probable cause sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution. The operation was carried out by personnel from 33 criminal justice agencies and was part of the ongoing work of the Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. The Task Force is led by the BCA and includes investigators from the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Buffalo police departments, the Anoka and Hennepin County sheriff’s offices, Homeland Security Investigations and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Many Task Force affiliate agencies lent resources to this particular effort, including the police departments of Howard Lake, Bemidji, Blaine, Brooklyn Park, Cambridge, Coon Rapids, Duluth, Maplewood, Owatonna, Rochester, Thief River Falls, and Upper Sioux, and the sheriff’s offices of Crow Wing, Kanabec and Pope counties.  Additional agencies provided expertise and resources including the Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Oakdale, Plymouth, St. Cloud and Woodbury police departments, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Hennepin and Washington County attorney’s offices and the BCA-led Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Several victim advocate organizations also provided services during victim recoveries, including Alexandria House, Breaking Free and The Link.

Key Partners

  • Thief River Falls Police Department
  • Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)
    • Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
    • Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force


State Minnesota
Type City
Population 8792
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