News: Added staff will work with local, county and state agencies to combat youth sex trafficking

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Contact: Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969

Added staff will work with local, county and state agencies to combat youth sex trafficking

Hennepin County is adding two employees dedicated to aggressively investigating and prosecuting youth sex traffickers and purchasers. 

The interdisciplinary team working on Hennepin County’s plan to end youth sex trafficking is currently at full capacity, and these new positions will help them respond to incidents. The number of sex trafficking cases submitted to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office has risen from 20 in 2014 to 51 in 2016.

"We are pleased with the county board's vote today," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "This will allow us to dedicate a prosecutor to sex trafficking cases. With more investigations being done by police, we should be able to charge more cases against bigger traffickers, particularly those who traffic children."

In addition to adding a specialized prosecutor to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, an investigator will be added the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. Both positions will work with Hennepin County's No Wrong Door coordinator and other local law enforcement agencies. 

“The Sheriff’s Office is going to pursue the individuals in the community who are trafficking our youth. No Wrong Door protects our kids and provides increased enforcement for sex trafficking,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “Sex trafficking has been a top priority for every public safety agency in Hennepin County, and I am thankful for the county board’s support of this program.”

Added staff will enable the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Attorney’s Office and Human Services and Public Health Department to continue working with law enforcement agencies and other local partners on this issue.

“County government response in support of victims has been tremendous. By adding a specialized crime analyst and a lawyer, we are taking our work to the next level by aggressively going after sellers and buyers who perpetrate these crimes against children,” Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene said.

Hennepin County began its No Wrong Door Plan in 2014 in response to Minnesota’s Safe Harbor legislation, which stipulates that sexually exploited youth must not be treated as criminals, but rather as sexual abuse victims. The plan aligns with the state’s No Wrong Door plan.

“This is an issue happening 365 days a year. It’s a complex issue and is not as street-based as one might think. People are soliciting youth via online networks. This intricate network speaks to the need for more resources,” Amanda Koonjbeharry, Hennepin County’s No Wrong Door coordinator, said. 

Hennepin County will evaluate the outcomes of the No Wrong Door initiative at the end of 2017 and 2018, including the number of cases investigated and prosecuted. 

Learn more about Hennepin County’s No Wrong Door plan.

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