New Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force

In Minnesota pimps are moving some of their business to the suburbs, where law enforcement traditionally has been less tuned into the problem. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office is organizing a Human Trafficking Task Force in which it will partner with police departments are partnering to combat the emerging problem. They’ll have their first major training session in May. With no additional funding for the task force, the sheriff’s office and police departments will pool resources, intelligence and manpower to pursue the criminals and help the women often coerced and intimidated into prostitution. Investigations will also include illegal work houses and other slave-labor situations.

Human trafficking investigations are about following the money and targeting the criminals who coerce vulnerable people into prostitution or forced labor. These investigations are technical and time-consuming. They often cross jurisdictions and can involve multistate sex rings, where prostitutes are regularly moved from city to city to provide a fresh supply of labor. Human trafficking investigations often involve computer forensics. The women and others forced to work are reticent to talk to police.

“We are understanding how people are being victimized,” Anoka County Sheriff Lt. Bryon Fuerst said. “The people working as prostitutes are not necessarily doing it on their own free will. Someone else is profiting. There is abuse and coercion used to get people to continue to work. We are trying to get victims out of the environment, hold the people profiting accountable, and provide help and resources for the victims who got drawn into it. I don’t think we were calling prostitutes victims 15 years ago.”

The Anoka County attorney’s office has two or three trafficking cases referred to them each year. They often involve multiple defendants and multiple victims.“They’re unique cases to work. It takes a particular set of skills to communicate well with the victims and get them to trust. It doesn’t come easy and without specialized training,” said prosecutor Paul Young, the Anoka County attorney’s division chief for violent crime. “Training will improve the quality of cases that get referred for prosecution.”

Learn more at Shannon Prather’s Star Tribune article: Anoka County law enforcement to form human trafficking task force.

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