A statewide effort to train law enforcement officials to better investigate sex trafficking crimes while helping survivors has reached nearly 2,000 officers and increased prosecution, authorities said Thursday.

"Oftentimes, the victims are right in front of us," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "They're living among us. … We're not seeing them."

The Ramsey County attorney's office began training officers in early 2014 and has since trained more than 1,700 officers in 33 cities using $700,000 from the Legislature and $70,000 from the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

Advocates, prosecutors, tribal leaders and others also have undergone the training, which emphasizes a victim-centered approach that refrains from treating victims as criminals.

Choi said the "massive" endeavor has led to a dramatic increase in the prosecution of sex trafficking crimes.

In 2007, there were 29 charges statewide in sex trafficking cases, compared with 75 in 2015, according to data that authorities shared on Thursday.

Other related crimes such as solicitation of a child, using a minor in a sexual performance and coercion, among others, also saw increases in prosecution in that time frame.

Choi credited the Women's Foundation, trafficking survivors, St. Paul police and a number of legislators for contributing to the campaign.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Dave Pinto, also a legislator, has spearheaded the training, which helped establish services and safe houses for trafficking victims.

The county attorney's office on Thursday also released online training videos as tools for law enforcement officers and other professionals working on the issue. They can be found at ramseycounty.us/sextrafficking.

The videos may also be of use to civilians seeking information about how to spot and report such crimes, Choi said.

Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391