According to the Grand Forks Police Department, this was a targeted operation. The agents pretended to be adult women online offering sex for money. Investigators say they received a lot of responses, but three men were the only ones to show up.
“It’s a good thing to go out into the community and periodically conduct these kinds of operations and test the waters, is there a market we need to address,” said GFPD lieutenant Derik Zimmel.
It was the first attempt at prostitution in Grand Forks in a few years. Since 2019, 19 people have been arrested for prostitution in Grand Forks. The authorities’ objective is to find the link between the commercial prostitution industry and human trafficking.
“What we’re looking specifically for is to find these people, these individuals, to find these individuals who are doing this against their will and set them free,” Zimmel said.
The Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks says it treats fewer than 10 human trafficking victims each year, but knows the number is higher.
“This is one of the most difficult crimes to identify, said CVIC vice president Laura Nash Frisch.“ They can be afraid to take help because they can be afraid of the consequences, people who have guarantees on them that they can hold against them. “
Statewide, more than 500 human trafficking cases have been documented since 2016. This number is mainly based on law enforcement figures and not on help from organizations like CVIC.
“I would say there is a problem with the period of human trafficking. End of statement,” Zimmel said.
CVIC says that’s why simple prostitution bites like the one from Grand Forks are just one part of tackling the problem.
“It’s a piece of the puzzle,” Frisch said. “They hurt and may not realize that the person providing them with sex is going through a life, they may be beaten, held against their will, starved.”
CVIC offers a variety of services to victims of human trafficking, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing, therapy and assistance in writing protection orders.
Each of the men arrested in the attack faces up to 30 days in prison if convicted.