September 23, 2017 10:03 AM
With the Super Bowl coming to town in a few months, police are warning human trafficking could become a problem in the rental property industry.
That's why departments from across the metro area met with members of the public to discuss the issue Thursday night.
"These are vulnerable populations that will fall prey to traffickers," said Lorena Pinto, the client services coordinator at the Family Partnership PRIDE Program.
Mary Schwenke is the president of Highland Management Group, which oversees thousands of units across the metro. She brought all her managers to Thursday's meeting where she learned the FBI ranked Minneapolis as one of the top 13 cities in the country for trafficking.
"It was a real eye opener," she said.
"We have to be vigilant," Pinto added.
Pinto said those in the rental property industry have things to learn - especially with the Super Bowl only months away.
"What's going to skyrocket - hotels and hotel prices," Pinto said. "Traffickers are going to want to make the most money they can. and if they can access apartment complexes and houses, then they will turn those things into brothels."
Pinto said research shows 213 underage girls each month are sold for sex in Minnesota.
"It's such an underground industry, it's probably more, and that's a sad, sad reality," Pinto said.
"If you think of a 12-or-13 year old, it's just horrific," officer Alex Draeger of the St. Louis Park Police Department said.
Police departments across the metro are asking for help spotting signs of trafficking.
"Are they seeing different people coming into this same unit time and time again," Draeger said. "Is it not the same person that rented it? When they go in there, does it look like someone is living there? Or does it look like it's set up for something different?"
In February, the Super Bowl will have the spotlight.
But in the shadows, the scary truth of human trafficking remains. That's why Schwenke hopes she and others can make a difference.
"I think it takes many people to work together to try and solve the problem," Schwenke said.
Updated: September 23, 2017 10:03 AM
Created: September 21, 2017 08:44 PM
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