Sex-trafficking convictions in Minnesota more than doubled last year compared with the year before, according to a report announced Wednesday.
The new report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) shows that convictions for solicitation and promotion of prostitution and sex trafficking jumped from 31 in 2012 to 63 in 2013. Both numbers dramatically trumped conviction numbers in the five years before.
The increase in sex-trafficking charges and convictions is largely due to a victim-centered approach that has been embraced by law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as partnerships with service providers, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Wednesday.
“We are now seeing that many of the victims — because we view them as victims and we want to help them instead of running them through the delinquency system — are willing to tell their story and come forward,” he said.
Besides sex trafficking, the report also gave charge and conviction data for related offenses and for labor trafficking. The report doesn’t reflect the full extent of trafficking in Minnesota, with most perpetrators involved in human trafficking never being arrested and those who are, often charged with different non-trafficking offenses, according to the report.
“Human trafficking, by its very nature, is a hidden crime whose victims often go unidentified, misidentified or undiscovered,” said Raeone Magnuson, OJP director, in a statement.
In 2011, Minnesota passed the Safe Harbor Law, which immediately added the definition of sexually exploited youth in the state’s child protection codes, increased the penalty against abusers and directed the Department of Public Safety to create a victim-centered response to sexually exploited youths.
Additional changes in the law that went into effect in August were the decriminalization of prostitution for youth and implementation of the “No Wrong Door” model, which called for more resources for exploited youths such as housing and more training for law enforcement, among other goals.
The addition of more services for trafficking victims is one reason charges and convictions have increased, said Lauren Ryan, statewide Safe Harbor/No Wrong Door director.
“[The victims are] stable and once they’re safe it’s going to be easier to cooperate with investigators and prosecutors,” Ryan said.