Grand Forks Police Department prostitution sting hooks 5GRAND FORKS, ND - Five men who showed up at a Grand Forks hotel in response to an online ad for a prostitute were surprised by police officers in a weekend sting operation, according to the Police Department.
By: Anna Burleson, Forum News Service, Grand Forks Herald , Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS, ND - Five men who showed up at a Grand Forks hotel in response to an online ad for a prostitute were surprised by police officers in a weekend sting operation, according to the Police Department.
While alleged prostitutes are rarely arrested here because officers aren’t often able to catch them in the act, police believe arrests of a few “johns” will make others think twice.
“We always hope that there’s a deterrence effect on something like this,” said Lt. Jim Remer, who heads up the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Officers also keep in touch with known prostitutes in the area to make sure they’re not being abused, he said. Some of the women are locals who engage in sex work as a side job to earn extra cash but others are full-time prostitutes, he said.
“We just want to make sure we’re responding to this and trying to make sure we’re gathering information,” he said. “If arrests are appropriate, we’ll do that.”
The bigger goal is to curb human trafficking, abuse and underage prostitution, he said.
Police identified the five alleged johns as Dean McAllister, Joshua McSparron, Bryan Petersen, Shanti Rasailey and Dustin Schmidt. They are expected to be charged with hiring an individual to engage in sexual activity, which carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.
Incidents of prostitution are important to monitor as they often coincide with other crimes, such as burglary and aggravated assault, Remer said.
To catch the alleged johns this weekend, police placed an online ad, a tactic used a year ago in January to catch four other johns. Websites such as Backpage.com have become infamous for thinly-veiled prostitution ads, including those used for trafficking underage girls.
Remer said the ease of placing an anonymous online ad hasn’t necessarily led to an increase in prostitution in the area, however.
After the ad was placed, officers posing as prostitutes exchanged text messages with the alleged johns and agreed to meet them at a south end hotel on Friday, where the men were arrested.
“That hotel isn’t known as hotbed for activity, they were just willing to help us out,” Remer said.
Grand Forks police’s sting operations are part of a broader effort to curb prostitution and human trafficking related to it.
Earlier in the month, police in Moorhead arrested two men in another sting.
Cities affected by the oil boom have also made special efforts to educate police to differentiate between women forced into prostitution and those doing it of their own free will, which helps officers deal with victims appropriately.
Remer said he didn’t see a direct correlation between the rise in prostitution in Oil Patch cities and prostitution in Grand Forks. Still, he said, some sex workers here have headed west.