MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis is on a list of 13 cities with a high concentration of sex trafficking organizations.
It’s a growing problem, and with children often the victims, several county attorneys are working to change the way Minnesota deals with the young victims.
Some of Minnesota’s county attorney’s say they are changing their strategy on how they deal with teenagers arrested for prostitution.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi lead the group in announcing new policies and procedures to ensure young people roped into sex trafficking are treated as victims instead as delinquents.
The system’s response has in the past been arrest, detention, and juvenile court proceedings.
Now county attorney’s say they will be working with law enforcement officers, health and child protective services, and non-profit programs like Break Free to help teens escape prostitution.
They’re also vowing to target the criminals responsible, the Johns, and say they’ll prosecute them to the fullest extent.
Courtney, whose last name won’t be revealed because she is a victim, was 15 when she was talked into prostitution. She is now 23 and got out after being arrested by the FBI. After her ordeal, she became involved in the program Break Free.
She says it’s extremely hard to escape.
“Sending (the young victims) to jail is really not going to help because you have a pimp who has thousands and thousands of dollars, so it doesn’t matter. Arrest me, I’m going to get out,” she said. “I think they just really need to find a way to make you feel like you don’t have to go back and it’s difficult because your mind is so wrapped around the fact that you do have to go back. And if you don’t go back your family will die — you will die. It’s really about making you feel safe and sometimes there’s no amount of words that can make you feel like you’re OK.”
Courtney is now a cosmetology student. She continues to work with the Break Free organization.
There are also efforts underway at the capitol to make a statewide change. One bill that lawmakers will introduce would change the terminology in the law referring to teenagers arrested for prostitution from delinquents to sexually exploited youth.