Waite Park is a city of about 8,000 residents, in the St. Cloud metro region of Minnesota. The metro area has nearly 190,000 residents between three counties, is an hour from the Twin Cities and off Interstate 94. According to the County Attorney, this makes the region an easy target for traffickers. In response, agencies have increased the focus on the demand for commercial sex, arresting more than 200 sex buyers in St. Cloud and Waite Park from 2015-2017. For example, in May 2017, a man was found guilty of attempting to buy sex with a person he believed was a 17-year-old girl. A Stearns County jury convicted the 54-year-old man on a felony count of soliciting a prostitute under the age of 18 and a misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution. The man responded to an ad on Backpage.com which was offering sex with a 22-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl. Undercover officers were acting as the women through several text messages with the suspect, who agreed to pay $150 for an hour of sexual intercourse. He agreed to meet at an apartment unit in the 1400 block of 12th Avenue North in Waite Park. In June, 2018
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. That money goes directly to victims and victim services. That’s in addition to any fines, penalties or jail time they may face for their crime. The extra fee is purposeful. If the buyers don’t get anything out of the class, at least some of their money goes to help victims of sex trafficking.
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 Investigative Task Force
- Waite Park Police Department
- St. Cloud Police Department
- Stearns County Sheriff’s Office
- Stearns County Attorney’s Office
- Breaking Free
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- “Not Buying It” Demand Reduction School
- Sex Trafficking: The Victims Next Door. St Cloud Times, July 21, 2016
- MASE Intake Form
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area: