Grant Will Aid Police In Sex Crimes Against Minors
The Bemidji Police Department will have help along the way as they try to combat sex trafficking and the solicitation of minors for sex in the Bemidji area. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Justice Programs, awarded a 47 thousand dollar grant for the purpose to investigate sex trafficking crimes.
“Our goal has been to try to capture or identify those individuals that seek to do harm to children whether it’s through electronic means or text communication or even face to face communication,” Beltrami County Police Chief Mike Mastin.
Anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking but B-P-D focuses on the cases related to persons under the age of 16. Some of these cases are complex and victims don’t always want to come forward because of trust issues.
“They’re kind of groomed to only trust one person and that’s the person that’s in control of them,” said Mastin. “So locating the victims of this is really difficult.”
“Fair to say there were several arrested during that initial operation,” said Mastin.
This is a serious issue for Bemidji. Just this week two men were charged with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child.
“It is a big problem nearly impossible to tell how big of a problem it happens so behind the scenes and it’s so hidden from plain sight,” said Support Within Reach Regional Navigator Sara Collins.
Children who identify as LGBTQ are high risk since they’re most likely to be kicked out of their homes because of their orientation and runaway youth trade sex for food or housing. It’s not easy for victims to get up and leave their abusers for many reasons.
“They could be scared. They could not understand what’s happening to them,” said Collins. “They might be dependent upon their trafficker for some basic needs.”
In the state there were 39 sex trafficking cases reported and of those 12 involved minors. It’s a matter of limiting the demand because if there is a demand they’ll be a supply.