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GFPD uses prostitution sting to study human trafficking in the city

The Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks says it deals with less than 10 victims of human trafficking each year, but knows the number is bigger.

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GRAND FORKS — It was a hotel by the Columbia Mall where three men showed up for sex Thursday, Aug. 26. Instead, they ended up in jail.

According to the Grand Forks Police Department, it was a targeted operation. Officers posed as adult women online offering sex for money. Investigators say they got a lot of responses but three men were the only ones who showed up.

"It's a good thing to get out in the community and conduct these type of operations periodically and test the waters, is there a market out there that we need to address," said GFPD Lieutenant Derik Zimmel.

This was the first prostitution sting in Grand Forks in a few years. Since 2019, 19 people have been arrested for prostitution in Grand Forks. The goal of authorities is to find the link between the commercial prostitution industry and human trafficking.

"What we are specifically going after is to find those people, those individuals, to find those individuals who are doing this against their will and free them," Zimmel said.

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The Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks says it deals with less than 10 victims of human trafficking each year, but knows the number is bigger.

"It is one of the most difficult crimes to identify, said CVIC vice president Laura Nash Frisch. "They may be afraid to take the help because they may be afraid of the consequences, people that have collateral on them they may hold against them."

Statewide, more than 500 cases of human trafficking have been documented since 2016. That number relies mostly on numbers from law enforcement, not help organizations like CVIC.

"I would say there is an issue with human trafficking period. End of statement," Zimmel said.

CVIC says that's why simple prostitution stings like the one in Grand Forks is only one component to tackling the issue.

"It's a piece of the puzzle," Frisch said. "They are doing harm and may not realize the person providing sex to them is going through, they may be being beaten, held against their will, starved."

CVIC offers a variety of services for victims of human trafficking such as emergency shelter, transitional housing, therapy, and help writing protective orders.

Each of the men arrested in the sting faces up to 30 days in jail if convicted.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTSGRAND FORKS
Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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