Minnesota law enforcement agencies are getting a boost in funding this year for sex trafficking investigations.
The state’s Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs announced Tuesday that eight grants totaling nearly $800,000 will go toward police training or new projects and positions. The funding will be shared by two state-level departments and seven local government agencies.
“Taking advantage of youth and adults to use them for sex should concern every Minnesotan,” Raeone Magnuson, the office’s director, said in a statement. “Providing resources and training to law enforcement enables them to strategically investigate sex trafficking cases to recover the highest-risk victims, as well as target the traffickers in ways they have not been able to do in the past.”
With the Super Bowl coming to Minnesota next year, metro prosecutors and police anticipate that hundreds of women and girls will be sold on the sex market. Experts hope to use the event to increase awareness and direct more resources toward sex trafficking prevention.
The grants will go to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Department of Health, for a sex trafficking investigations conference; Duluth police and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, each for a sex trafficking investigator; Minneapolis police, for an analyst and information sharing portal; New Ulm police, for investigations support; St. Paul police, for a criminal analyst; and the Washington County attorney’s office, for a program coordinator and investigation support.
Since Minnesota passed the Safe Harbor law in 2011, which ensured that sexually exploited youths are viewed as victims rather than criminals, the number of shelter beds has risen from two to more than 40, and more than 2,000 officers have been trained in identifying victims.
A bill this year is seeking $2.3 million more in funding to add more shelter beds, resources and youth outreach workers. Another bill seeks to develop a separate plan for adult victims, since Safe Harbor is limited to decriminalizing victims under 18 years old.
Nearly $490,000 in grants were awarded last year to six agencies that took 249 possible sex trafficking reports. Of those, 35 cases were charged.