Lawmakers seek to help cops who need more resources to fight sex trafficking

A recent law designed to protect teenagers from sex trafficking may have become a victim of its own success.

Police departments say the state's Safe Harbor Law has made them more aware of sex trafficking in their own communities, and they need more help investigating the cases.

For instance, there were just 17 sex trafficking prosecutions in Minnesota in 2010, but after the harbor law was approved in 2011, that number shot up to 72 in 2013.

At a legislative hearing today, police officers told lawmakers that they need more training and investigative support because these cases are becoming more complicated and consuming.

Bud Shaver, police chief in West St. Paul, told lawmakers, "Recently the feds came into town and investigated one of our restaurants. We found a single-bed hotel room with 15 beds in it of human trafficking."

Timothy Deschene of the Waite Park Police Department added, "These investigations were by far the most complex investigations I've conducted within my 28 year law enforcement career. Most law enforcement agencies do not have the time or skill level to complete a proper sex trafficking investigation."

The bill, authored by Rep. Dave Pinto (D-St. Paul) would set aside $1 million during the next two years to set up state and local task forces to investigate sex trafficking and provide training for local police departments.

It was laid over for possible inclusion in the House crime bill later in the session.

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