June 29, 2017 10:53 PM
Reports of human trafficking nearly doubled in Minnesota from 2015 to 2016, according to numbers released by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Thursday.
While reports may be up, two county attorneys said the increase is making law enforcement professionals more aware of the issue.
"I think that cops, and I know prosecutors, are much more aware and sensitive to the amount of this stuff that's going on," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi added, "it was happening right before our eyes, but we just weren't seeing it."
The number of reported sex trafficking incidents in Minnesota jumped from 119 in 2015 to 235 in 2016, a roughly 97 percent increase.
"Crime is not necessarily increasing in this area," explained Choi. "We're just doing a better job of identifying this problem and defining it also as a serious crime."
Choi pointed to specific programs that he said have helped law enforcement professionals crack down on the issue. In 2013, the legislature gave the Ramsey County Attorney's office $700,000 that was used to develop a statewide model protocol for law enforcement and prosecutors. Altogether, more than 6,000 officers have been trained to identify and help sexually trafficked youth.
"That has resulted in, I think, a broader public awareness and a much greater public will to do something about the buying and selling of human beings," Choi said.
The BCA noted that the increase in reported sex trafficking incidents also reflects an increase in proactive sting operations by law enforcement posing as minors. That means that in those incidents, there were no victims.
Updated: June 29, 2017 10:53 PM
Created: June 29, 2017 11:09 AM
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