SIOUX FALLS, SD – Sex trafficking isn’t just seen by advocates; law enforcement in KELOLAND deal with a handful of cases each year. It’s a problem around the world, and most often involves women and young girls.
“When it happens, and it’s happened in South Dakota, it’s heartbreaking to read the reports,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said. “It’s heartbreaking to learn about the victims in these cases.”
Milstead says people often confuse trafficking with prostitution. Both cases involve sex for money; the difference is trafficking victims work because they’re forced to. Some are a long way from home.
“They’re under threat. They’re under coercion. They’re being trafficked as a child or they’re dependent on the person because of the fact that they’re a child,” Milstead said.
But it’s not always involving people from out of state. Milstead says both perpetrators and victims are sometimes people who live in this area.
“Sometimes they’ll be runaways or people with a troubled home. Sometimes they’re throw-aways, meaning, ‘Go ahead and move out. I know you’re 15 but go ahead and go,’” Milstead said. “They’re looking for a place to live. They find someone to provide shelter, food, companionship, and soon they’re used for a business.”
From finding victims to recruiting customers, the internet has helped the problem multiply.
“It’s a challenge for law enforcement,” Milstead said. “That technology spike, and it’s going to continue, makes it very easy for people to prey on victims.”
Milstead’s advice is to let your kids know of the danger and help them be safe online.
Milstead says because sex trafficking often crosses state lines, offenders can be charged with federal crimes.