Federal agents meet with Twin Cities adult nightclubs to combat sex trafficking

To combat sex trafficking, federal investigators are trying a relatively new tactic by getting people in the adult entertainment industry to become their eyes and ears. 

The Twins home opener is a big day for Minneapolis strip clubs, but before the game on Monday, many of those employees were at a hotel conference room for an unusual partnership between law enforcement and the adult entertainment industry.

Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are teaming up with a group called COAST, Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking.

“We've all had people passing judgment. We've all been doing it so long – once you start you don't get out of it. We love it so much,” Brittany Turk said.

Turk started as an exotic dancer, and now she's a manager at Rick's Cabaret. But she knows there may be others who aren't making their own choices.

“Girls are real quiet and they won't talk about anything,” she said, which is one of the signs Homeland Security told those in the adult entertainment industry to watch for, along with someone else who picks up their paycheck, acting fearful, lacking personal possessions or even an ID.  

“I don't think it's an issue in the clubs,” Kevin Arrowood, club manager at Rick’s Cabaret, said.

But even so, Arrowwood says he knows the adult industry can be a recruiting ground for traffickers. 

“People think human trafficking is a smuggling operation, it's really not, it's really a slavery and servitude issue,” Arrowood said.

Nationwide, more than 1,437 people were arrested for sex trafficking in 2015, and another 400 victims were identified in Homeland Security investigations.

“It's certainly here in our backyard.” Arrowood said.

Contrary to conventional belief, most human trafficking victims are not foreign born. In Minnesota, 60 percent of human trafficking victims were born and raised in the U.S.