Minneapolis furthers efforts to combat sex trafficking of juveniles

The Minneapolis City Council today approved a resolution and new ordinance that support and build upon the City’s current efforts to combat sex trafficking of juveniles in Minneapolis.

The resolution pledges to make Minneapolis a safe place to call home for all youth and to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of youth and young adults. The resolution also establishes the Minneapolis Coordinating Committee to Prevent Juvenile Sex Trafficking. The committee will be responsible for coordinating City efforts and engaging other governmental, nonprofit and community partners in furthering the goals of this pledge while also developing measures to gauge the City’s progress in fighting sex trafficking.

The new ordinance that was approved today requires all massage businesses to now be licensed in Minneapolis. This ordinance will help and support legitimate massage businesses while also providing regulatory tools to prevent sex trafficking in illegitimate enterprises. Under the new ordinance a license fee of $50 will be required for home businesses and/or single operators and an annual license fee of $140 will be required for commercial-based businesses with employees.

New approach, making progress

Over the last two years, Minneapolis has used a new approach to combating sex trafficking, which has led to promising results. Since February 2011, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Crimes Against Children’s Unit has investigated 64 juvenile sex trafficking cases and arrested 31 suspects. Of these, 23 defendants have been charged, including 20 for felony sex trafficking and felony procuring or hiring a minor for prostitution. The other three cases charged were for other sexual assault felonies. Through these cases, more than 30 juvenile victims have been rescued.

The innovative approach to preventing and dealing with sex trafficking is victim-centered, which means law enforcement views the juveniles involved in prostitution as victims. With cooperation from the victims, prosecutors are more often able to bring felony charges against the people who traffic those young girls. The traditional method of arresting and prosecuting prostitutes leads to less-serious misdemeanor charges and often does not address the root of the problem or prevent it from happening again.

Another key aspect of the approach is that it is multi-department, multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary, to attack the problem from a number of angles. Minneapolis departments and law enforcement partners have been working with the local business, advocacy communities and other partners to bring an end to sex trafficking of juveniles.

In January 2013, the City Attorney’s Office, Minneapolis Police Department and its partners held a successful training which engaged hotel and motel owners and their employees so they know how to join in the effort to recognize, report, and stop sex trafficking. The training was attended by nearly 100 people, representing about 25 hotel and motel properties. Among the cases charged in 2012, all but one involved the use of a hotel as the environment for sex trafficking, and in every case, the hotel was able to provide meaningful evidence to support a conviction.

The City Attorney’s Office also takes a treatment-centered approach to prosecuting prostituted adults, and is working to drive down the demand side of the equation through aggressive prosecuting of “johns” and publishing the pictures of arrested and convicted “johns” on the City’s website.

The Minneapolis Police Department added new resources in 2013 to continue fighting sex trafficking. The Crimes Against Children Unit was created that includes two, full-time investigators and two investigators for the Absenting Project: a program in partnership with Hennepin County Child Protection that diverts juvenile runways from criminal sanctions to social solutions. The sergeants will identify children at the highest risk of being sexually trafficked and assist in the location of and intervention with these youths. Last year, every victim rescued from sex traffickers was a runaway with a repeated history of absenting. 

The Minneapolis Health Department has also trained all staff of its school-based clinics to understand the signs of sex trafficking and partnered with schools to develop and integrate prevention education into the curriculum.

For more information about the City’s efforts to fight sex trafficking visit http://www.minneapolismn.gov/police/crimeprevention/sextrafficking.

Published Dec 6, 2013