Sex-trafficking is such a vile, disgusting, vicious crime it is difficult to fathom – difficult to imagine so many “ordinary” folks could possibly do such a crime, and those “ordinary” folks are not only pimps but the “johns” (mainly married men) who pay for sex, often with under-aged girls or boys.
Very often, sex-trafficking and drug-trafficking are inseparably connected, which makes the sickening crime even more insidious.
An extraordinary series of exposé stories by the St. Cloud Times last year proved just how extensive the crime is right here in central Minnesota and the St. Cloud area. We can no longer pretend sex-trafficking is a big-city crime; it’s right here, right under our noses. Sex-trafficking has become rampant in the area, and many of the pimps are not hard-bitten thugs from metro areas but “ordinary” men (and some women) from just about every city and small town in the three-county area.
But the fight against it has begun. Law-enforcement departments, attorneys, social agencies and others have been networking for at least 18 months to find ways to combat the crime. But there was a lack of funds.
Thanks to a $313,000 grant from the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs, a new local task force can be formed. It’s called the Central Minnesota Sex-Trafficking Investigative Task Force.
Participants include police departments, sheriff departments, a sexual-assault center and the Stearns County Attorney’s Office. The task force will now have full-time sex-trafficking investigators in the St. Cloud and Waite Park police departments. There will also be a full-time officer and a part-time detective on the task force. The force will also network with state and national efforts, which is so important because sex-traffickers and their victims are constantly on the move to escape detection.
In addition, the task force will connect with many excellent organizations that are trying to put sex-traffickers out of business, off of the streets, while helping restore their victims to a sense of self-worth, health and new direction. Such organizations include women safe-shelters, churches, legal-aid agencies, Catholic Charities and Terebinth Refuge.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall deserves our thanks and the highest praise for working tirelessly on ways to stop sex-trafficking, along with those who network with her.
We are happy about the task force, the new funding. But there is also a place for all of us in this crucial battle. As is the case with terrorist activity, if “you see something, say something.” Some of the sex-trafficking trysts take place in apartment buildings, hotels, motels, cars in parking lots and in homes of neighborhoods. A sure sign that something may be awry is unfamiliar people going into and out of places, sometimes staying for short times, then leaving. That is sometimes also a sign of drug sales going on, and – not to forget – where there are drugs, there is often sex-trafficking and vice versa.
Sex-trafficking is like a cancerous rot on our entire society. We must all learn about it, learn how it cripples its victims emotionally and physically, and learn the ways we can all help to stop it, to arrest and prosecute offenders and to help restore its victims back to confidence and health.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.