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Grants sought to help law enforcement fight sex trafficking

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Timothy Deschene, an investigator with the Waite Park Police Department, testifies in favor of HF1776, sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto, left, which would provide funding to combat sex trafficking crimes. Photo by Paul Battaglia

By Mike Cook

Within two months of receiving training last fall, Timothy Deschene helped investigate six sex trafficking cases in the St. Cloud area, including one involving a 16-year-old.  

An investigator with the Waite Park Police Department and member of the Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Task Force, Deschene said the investigations required about 1,000 hours of time.

“These investigations were, by far, the most complex and difficult investigations I have conducted within my 28-year law enforcement career,” he told the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee Thursday. “Most of the law enforcement agencies do not have the time or skill level to complete a proper sex trafficking investigation.”

“We don’t have vice, and we have general investigators who do these investigations,” added Marc Chadderdon, an investigator with the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Department. “We simply don’t have resources or tools to investigate them and give each case the time that they deserve.”

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto(DFL-St. Paul), HF1776, as amended, would appropriate $500,000 in each year of the 2016-17 biennium to support new or existing multi-jurisdictional entities to investigate sex trafficking crimes and provide training to law enforcement agencies across the state.

“We want to make sure that officers doing that work are as well-prepared as possible,” said Pinto, who has prosecuted a number of such cases in his full-time job with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

The proposal was held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion. It has no Senate companion.

“This might be the best initiative in public safety and protection of vulnerable people in our state that we’ve had in a number of years,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley). “This may be one of the best uses of a million dollars in state appropriations I can think of.”

Chadderdon noted that the problem is not limited to big cities.

He spoke of his office quickly getting calls after placing an online prostitution ad. “I mean we got a lot of calls,” he said. “We arrested five for prostitution and one for narcotics in a few hours.”

West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver said the current situation favors the criminal because many officers are over-tasked, resources are limited and victims are abused and intimidated, so they do not cooperate with police.

“This bill is a multiplier for those of us in law enforcement to take the experience that many of us have gleaned from working in this for years full-time … and provide the information we got and share across jurisdictions to glean what they’ve done well, what’s worked for them and these other jurisdictions,” said Sgt. Grant Snyder, a Minneapolis Police Department detective.

This story was written by Mike Cook of House Public Information Services for Session Daily.

Link to video coverage of the hearing can be found here.