Welcome back to Appelman Law Firm’s “Prostitution in Minnesota” blog series. Last week we outlined the crime of prostitution in Minnesota by defining key terminology. Here we’ll delve more deeply into the procedures surrounding prostitution—specifically how police go about setting up and arresting patrons.
The business of prostitution has changed drastically in the past decade, shifting from the streets to the internet. Sites like Craigslist and Backpage offer an easy way for prostitutes to advertise their services, and an even easier way for patrons to find exactly what they want. Other sites, like The Erotic Review, allow patrons to read reviews of prostitutes written by people who’ve utilized their services.
Police operations that focus on trapping patrons will often post fake advertisements on these and other sites, offering sexual favors for money. The language used in these advertisements is coded. For example, you won’t find someone offering a “blowjob for 20 bucks.” Instead advertisements offer massages or use regional terminology as code for certain sexual favors (e.g. Greek=anal sex, French=oral sex).
Most police prostitution stings operate on a two-call system. When a prospective patron calls the number posted on a fake advertisement, the initial information exchanged is very general. The officer posing as a prostitute will give the patron a general location at which to meet (e.g. hwy 42 and I-35 in Burnsville). The patron will then have to call again, once in the area, to get a specific location (e.g. Holiday Inn, Rm. 231). All calls are recorded and used as evidence.
Once the patron arrives at the designated location (usually a hotel room that is wired and video recorded from an adjacent room), the undercover officer will entice conversation regarding the patron’s desires by asking questions like: “What are you interested in?” or “Is it ok if you use a condom?” Such statements ensure the recorded conversation covers the required sex-for-money elements of the crime.
The officer will then request that the patron place his payment or “donation” on the bedside table (or somewhere in the room). When the patron does so, the crime of prostitution has been committed. The undercover officer gives the arrest signal, and the rest of the surveillance team enters the room and places the patron under arrest. The entire conversation between the patron and the undercover officer is video recorded and used as evidence for the prosecution.
These prostitution stings are set up by police with help from prosecutors. They are crafted around what prosecutors will ask defendants in the courtroom. It is a process predicated on deception.
You may be surprised at the locations in which police choose to conduct these stings. Instead of targeting specific people or groups of people, they hone in on a handful of Minnesota cities and counties. To find out where this is happening and why, tune in next week for our third installment of “Prostitution in Minnesota.”