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Winona County is a county of just under 50,000 residents, located in southeastern Minnesota. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the community, and have generated complaints to law enforcement.
In addition to overseeing or assisting with city-level anti-prostitution efforts in Winona, county local law enforcement agencies have conducted at least two reverse stings. In May 2015, officers with the Winona County Sheriff’s Department and Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Drug Task Force placed decoy advertisements suggesting prostitution to a website known for commercial sex activity, and arranged to meet the men who responded to the listing at an unnamed Winona County motel. Four male sex buyers were arrested as a result; each was charged with “a single gross misdemeanor count of patronizing prostitution,” and had a bond set of $6,000. All of the men’s names were publicized in press. In January 2018, charges of solicitation of prostitution were referred against a man after he answered an online ad for prostitution set up by law enforcement and arrived at a Winona area hotel where deputies arrested him following his confirmation of his intent.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. In April, 2015, Rochester-based prosecutors charged a former Winona County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Deputy with three misdemeanors for allegedly soliciting prostitution the prior fall. The man had allegedly paid a 22-year-old woman for sex on three occasions at his Winona home between June and October of 2014, according to the criminal complaint. The 47-year-old sex buyer was fired from his job as a deputy for “status unbecoming of an officer.”
In response to a survey conducted in 2021 by the NCOSE team for a National Institute of Justice grant to update and expand Demand Forum (Grant #2020-75-CX-0011), representatives from the Winona County Sheriff’s Office reported that public education specifically addressing demand has occurred in the county since 2015.
2021 National Assessment II Survey
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Winona County Busts 3 for Seeking Prostitution,” Winona Daily News, May 27 2015.
- “Sham Hooker Hooks Another in Winona County,” Winona Daily News, May 28 2015.
- “La Crescent Man Hooked by Sham Hooker,” La Crosse Tribune, June 3 2015.
- “Man arrested for solicitation of prostitution.” Winona Daily News, January 2, 2018.
Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure, Loss of Employment: