February 07, 2018 10:57 AM
A few blocks from the biggest sports party in the country was a contingent of the biggest brotherhood of military and law enforcement under one roof.
"We talk about the boots on the ground, the commanders come here with their cops," said Lt. Todd Gross, the commander and gatekeeper of the security compound inside North Central University in downtown Minneapolis.
The compound and what happens there was a secret. The university and the commander on site allowed KSTP to see their work last week.
University leaders cleared the halls of students, and created a command center for 1,000 National Guard soldiers, State Patrol troopers and officers from across the country.
The Humvees outside were indicative of how locked down the place was. Lt Gross said the security on site is strict to protect the sheer number of officers from any threat.
The biggest groups of law enforcement operating out of the university are K-9 officers, their partners and bomb technicians.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Andy Stender and his K-9 partner Booker are among the 104 officers from across the country, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Stender said the officers have bonded while talking shop and sharing stories. One story up from where those officers are getting their briefings, the latest intelligence and a cup of coffee, is a small room down a long hallway.
"What we have unfolding 100 feet from where we are is our human trafficking operations for the Super Bowl," said Sgt. Grant Snyder.
He and his team of federal and state human trafficking specialist officers were scouring websites, knocking on doors, and watching hotel hallways to find victims of human trafficking. In the first four days of the operation, they found 13 victims, including a child.
They arrested 67 buyers, mostly middle-aged men with good jobs and no criminal history.
That is the typical buyer, Snyder said. He said Minneapolis is doing something very different to fight human trafficking than did other Super Bowl cities.
"We're not arresting women for the crime of prostitution," Snyder said.
His team is working with advocates for the women and mental health professionals to help the women and children they rescue get off the street. He said the demand for sex keeps fueling the sex trade.
"I'm hoping that at the end of this we have made a difference – not just on demand, but in the victims' lives," he said.
The officers were working day and night to find the victims in the shadow of the biggest party in the country.
Their work and the work of all the officers at the security compound will help other Super Bowl cities. Officers from Atlanta, which hosts Super Bowl LIII, and Miami were in Minneapolis to learn from the operation here.
Updated: February 07, 2018 10:57 AM
Created: February 05, 2018 06:12 PM
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