Watertown is a city of approximately 22,000 residents, located in Codington County in eastern South Dakota. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to occur in the city.
Local law enforcement have stated that sex trafficking and prostitution are serious problems locally, with pimps selling women and girls over the internet. In a 2012 case, following a tip from someone at a motel, two women were arrested for prostitution.
Additional, police responses have included efforts to target demand. In November 2013, officers with South Dakota’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) conducted a web-based reverse sting operation from a local residence, wherein they installed video cameras and other surveillance equipment. Investigators then placed decoy listings on Craigslist and Backpage.com offering commercial sex with a 13-year-old girl.
DCI agents reported that conversations and emails flowed between investigators and several johns, who “asked about different things, [such as whether or not the underage female was] willing to do certain things.” According to local CBS news affiliate KELO-TV 11, “the DCI [also] used sophisticated equipment [to] help sell their online ad, including a converter box that allowed an undercover officer to disguise his voice to sound like a young girl. An undisclosed number of arrests were made.”