(KMSP) - Human trafficking is a crime hidden in the shadows.
That's why Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a national leader in the fight against sex trafficking, continues to shed light on the issue and its vast reach within Minnesota borders.
Just last week, Backpage.com shut down its adult services section after 48 arrests in the state.
While there has been some progress, many say it is not enough.
That’s why Klobuchar held a roundtable discussion with leading advocates in the fight against human trafficking on Sunday afternoon at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center.
“Making this a national effort is very important,” Klobuchar told Fox 9 following the 45-minute discussion.
“Our whole problem with this for years is that we pretended like well it’s their fault that they’re a prostitute,” Klobuchar said. “Well that’s just not usually the case. It’s usually someone else’s fault – the person that’s making money off of them.”
The Minnesota Safe Harbor Law inspired Justice for Victims of Trafficking, a bipartisan bill that provides incentives for all states to have a safe harbor provision. It was signed into law in 2015.
As for what’s next in the game plan to end the problem? With Super Bowl LII to be held in Minnesota next year, Klobuchar plans to continue to run the ball and lead by example. This time – Klobuchar expects Minnesota will model how to tackle sex trafficking at any convention that attracts this criminal activity in large numbers.
“We already have a plan in place and want to get the NFL more involved and that’s not to say the super bowl is not the only event that has sex trafficking all major conventions not even just sporting events have sex trafficking,” Klobuchar said.
“It’s everywhere in our community,” Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office Investigator, Marc Chadderdon, told Fox 9.
Chadderdon brought his bird’s eye view of the issue to the roundtable on Sunday. He estimates there are hundreds of thousands of people affected by labor and sex trafficking in Minnesota alone.
With Backpage.com’s adult services section now faded to black, Chadderdon expects it to be harder for the purchaser.
“That’s where they’ve been going to buy sex. Now, that the site is down,” Chadderon confirmed. He says traffickers have now moved to the dating section of the site and other dating sites to advertise covertly.
“Those are the people I would never see,” said Hayley King, a sex-trafficking survivor and advocate in reference to backpage.com buyers.
King also sat among advocates at Sunday’s roundtable.
During her brief yet candid discussion with Klobuchar, King expressed more needs to be done to tackle demand. Particularly what the industry considers “high-end” demand.
“[Otherwise] the message you’re sending to people who have money is as long as you have money you can do whatever you want, and as long as you have money you can buy whoever you want,” King said.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.