ST. PAUL, MN – A new law authored by State Representative Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul) goes into effect today [July 1, 2015] and gives local law enforcement a major boost in efforts to combat sex trafficking. The legislation, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, will offer $500,000 in grants over the next two years to fund investigations by multi-agency teams.
"As a prosecutor of domestic and sexual violence, I see the damage that sexual exploitation does to communities throughout our state," said Rep. Pinto. "Minnesota has taken many actions over the last few years to help victims and hold sex buyers and traffickers accountable. This funding is the next step in that process."
Minnesota has long been known as a national leader in the fight against sex trafficking. Even as services and support for victims have expanded, however, a gap in law enforcement has become apparent. Trafficking cases are time-intensive and often cross jurisdictional lines, and local police frequently lack the resources to investigate. The new grants (HF 1776), which were enacted as part of the public safety omnibus bill, will help to close this gap.
"Sex trafficking cases are some of the most difficult and time-consuming to investigate," said Chief Hugo McPhee, President of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and Chief of Police for the Three Rivers Park District. "They are also far more common than generally known. We are grateful to Rep. Pinto and to the Legislature for the new trafficking-investigation grants, which will make a big difference in every corner of our state."
Minnesota provides considerable resources to support local investigations of drug trafficking, but this is believed to be the first time that state funds have similarly been dedicated to human trafficking.
The new grants were accompanied this legislative session by other progress in Minnesota's efforts to fight these crimes. This includes the hiring of 13 new agents in the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension unit which investigates trafficking and other predatory crimes, as well as an increase of more than $3 million in funding for expanded services and housing for victims, training for systems professionals, and implementation of new community protocols.
Rep. Pinto stressed that the new grants are just the beginning.
"I'm pleased with the progress our state has made in so many areas on this issue and the support we've received from Governor Dayton’s administration," said Pinto. "We know from our state's longstanding work against domestic and sexual violence that it can take years to develop effective systems to respond to these crimes. We're on our way, with much more to do."
Rep. Pinto encourages community members of St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland, Highland Park, and Fort Road/West 7th neighborhoods to contact him on any legislative issue. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 651-296-4199.