Ward County, ND

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

Ward County is a county of approximately 69,ooo residents located in the northwest part of North Dakota. Its county seat is Minot. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the county and in the 2010s increased substantially due to the rapid population growth from the oil production “boom” in the Bakken region. For example, in January 2016, a Nevada man was accused of human trafficking and offering a 14-year-old girl for prostitution in Minot and Williston. In February 2017, a man plead guilty to human trafficking, stemming from a charge that he helped move a group of girls to Minot in 2015 to “work in prostitution.” In October 2018, two people were charged with facilitating prostitution after trafficking a woman at Minot hotels. Physical assaults on prostituted women have also been documented in the area. For example, in February 2018, a 28-year-old man was arrested and charged with beating and raping an 18-year-old prostituted woman at a hotel in Minot. The man had offered her more money for more time but when she refused because he didn’t have the cash on him, he choked, beat, and raped her. The man escaped out a window when the victim’s friend, who was hiding in the bathroom, ran out after hearing screaming.

In response to such crimes, and the community complaints they generate, the Minot Police Department (MPD) has conducted several anti-prostitution operations, including reverse stings. In 2013 and 2014, undercover operations in Minot led to the arrest of ten sex buyers; their identities were released to the public. In September 2014, officers expanded their arsenal of demand-reduction tactics when a local hotel offered to be the location of a web-based reversal. Ten male sex buyers were arrested after replying to an online advertisement placed by police and arriving to meet a female undercover officer for commercial sex. Following the operation, a representative with the MPD noted that the department would like to conduct more operations but were constrained by limited resources. When asked by media outlets about the impetus for the sting, the officer stated:

It’s market-driven, it’s supply and demand, and if there is not a demand, then hopefully there won’t be a supply.

In the weeks following the sting, MPD officers reported the operation owed its success to the department’s collaboration with the hotel that allowed law enforcement to stage the sting on its premises, as well as Minot’s Inn Keepers Association. In an interview with members of the press, the MPD noted that “the police department has a liaison that works with members of the Minot Inn Keepers Association, updating them on resources they can use, and helps them identify possibly solicitors who may be trying to use their hotels.” When asked about his facility’s participation, the hotel’s general manager commented:

It’s for the city. For myself, I want the city to be seen in a positive way. We can go into other cities hit by this oil activity and they aren’t necessarily looked upon in a favorable way. I want Minot to be a travel destination.

In 2016, the Ward County Sheriff’s Office conducted a web-based reverse sting operation in Minot that resulted in the arrest of a man on charges of luring a minor online. According to a probable cause affidavit filed with North Central District Court, a sergeant with the Ward County Sheriff’s Office posted an ad on Craigslist posing as a teenager. The sex buyer allegedly responded to the ad and told the undercover officer that he “wanted to meet for sex” even after he was informed he was talking to a 14-year-old. He eventually agreed to meet an undercover officer at Oak Park in Minot. He was arrested upon arrival and allegedly told officers that he was at the park to “meet a 14 year old girl and tell her that she shouldn’t be meeting people from Craigslist.” The offender was charged with luring a minor by computer, a Class B felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. If convicted, there is a minimum required sentence of one year in prison under state law and he would also be required to register as a sex offender.

Minot Police conducted another web-based reversed sting where they posed as a 16-year-old girl. A 56-year-old man was arrested after he tried to plan a sexual encounter in exchange for money. He was arrested on multiple offenses, including luring of a minor by computer and solicitation of prostitution. He was taken to the Ward County Jail.

In August 2019, officials from the Ward County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), with the North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, reported that a Canadian man had been arrested after attempting to lure a minor for sex. According to court records, a deputy with the WCSO trained in investigating internet crimes created an undercover profile on a mobile app as a 14-year-old boy, who the suspect believed he was communicating with. Investigators say contact continued through the summer and until he arranged to meet the minor for sex in Minot. He was arrested upon his arrival to the hotel for their meeting.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Local Prostitution Ordinance:

State North Dakota
Type County
Population 68962
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