Washington 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

Washington County contains approximately 272,000 residents, and is located in eastern Minnesota; it is part of the Twin Cities Metro Area, and is situated across the St. Croix River from Wisconsin. Substantial cities within the county include Stillwater, Woodbury, Cottage Grove, and Oakdale.

Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented in the city, and throughout the region. For example, in 2017, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department conducted a sting operation on a massage parlor after receiving several complaints about the business that resulted in revoking the massage parlor’s license and the arrest of an employee on charges of prostitution. Also in 2017, the Washington County Attorney’s Office announced that a man was sentenced for sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl and for the promotion of prostitution. The convict was sentenced to 120 months in prison and 90 months in prison on those charges, respectively. The 14-year-old victim had told police that she had been sex trafficked by by the offender on Backpage.com and had been sexually abused by at least two different men in exchange for money, which she turned over to the defendant. Police departments involved in the cooperative effort to recover the juvenile victim and securing the sex trafficking conviction were Woodbury, Oakdale, Forest Lake, Stillwater, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis, as well as the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Among the efforts to combat sex trafficking and prostitution in Washington County are the use of tactics targeting consumer-level demand, including reverse stings. For example, in August 2010, agents from the Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement Team coordinated with officers from the Cottage Grove and Woodbury Police Departments to conduct a web sting at a local hotel. During the investigation, officers placed a decoy listing to a website known for prostitution. As men responded to the listing, an undercover officer arranged to meet them at the hotel. According to news reports, law enforcement “asked to use the hotel as part of the undercover operation and were not responding to any reported prostitution activity at the hotel.” The arrestees were booked and released on a gross misdemeanor charge. In the days that followed, all of the offenders’ names and other identifying information were publicized by local media outlets. In July 2016, four men were arrested during a web-based reverse sting in Stillwater, on suspicion of soliciting a minor for prostitution. In May, 2021, seven men were arrested in a web-based operation gin which they attempted to purchase access to minors for sexual abuse.

Key Partners

  • Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement Team
  • Washington County Attorney’s Office
  • Cottage Grove Police Department
  • Woodbury Police Department
  • Stillwater Police Department
  • Shakopee Police Department
  • Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force
    • Anoka County Sheriff’s Office
    • St. Paul Police Department
    • Minneapolis Police Department
    • Department of Homeland Security Investigations
    • Ramsey County Attorney’s Office
  • Carver County Sheriff’s Office
  • Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office
  • Dakota County Sheriff’s Office
  • Pope County Sheriff’s Office
  • Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office
  • Belle Plaine Police Department
  • Chaska Police Department
  • New Prague Police Department
  • North St. Paul Police Department
  • Savage Police Department
  • Shakopee Police Department
  • Scott County Attorney’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Arrests, Identity Disclosure for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type County
Population 272256
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