No one wants to be trafficked. Here's what we're doing about it.

Sept. 13, 2021

A hand against a window from inside a dark room

No one chooses to be sold. No one wishes to be forced by another person to work or have sex. In short, no one wants to be trafficked. And yet it happens every day, even here in Minnesota. People are forced, intimidated, duped, or unknowing participants in a crime they can't – or believe they can't – escape. These people aren't criminals. ​They're victims.

That's why the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, which is led by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), uses a victim-centered approach. Its primary focus is sex trafficking. The task force includes a full-time sex trafficking victim specialist, who is there to offer victims resources to help them escape their current situation. Victims are also paired with a regional navigator, who connects them with the service and assistance providers they need.

The task force includes investigators from St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, Anoka and Hennepin County sheriff's offices, Homeland Security Investigations and the Ramsey County Attorney's Office. BCA task force members are specially trained to conduct human trafficking investigations – both sex and labor trafficking. Not all law enforcement agencies/personnel have this kind of specialized training, and it can be especially helpful when investigating trafficking incidents and working with victims of this particular crime.

The task force gets tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline. Whenever either of these organizations gets a tip related to Minnesota, they send it to the BCA and the task force to triage and investigate. Sometimes task force members conduct the investigation, and sometimes they refer it to an affiliate or other law enforcement agency, depending on what's appropriate.

They also conduct proactive investigations, known as operations. These operations fall into two main categories: trafficker-focused and buyer-focused. An operation can include one or both categories.

The two types of human trafficking are sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is exploiting an individual or receiving any kind of profit knowing that it comes from an act of sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is the sale of a person for forced labor or receiving any kind of profit knowing that it comes from an act of forced labor. In short, human trafficking is the sale of a person for the purpose of sexual acts or forced labor. Both federal and Minnesota law prohibit trafficking no matter the type.

You can learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, keeping in mind that it's usually a set of circumstances that will tip you off rather than one specific thing. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of being trafficked, you can contact:

 No one wants to be trafficked, but the Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force wants to help – and so can you.