(UPI) — More than 50 people were arrested for attempting to solicit children for sex or trafficking victims in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this month during the NCAA Final Four, authorities said.
Twenty-eight people were from trafficking situations during the operation, including one minor, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement Wednesday. The five-day sting netted 47 felony arrests for soliciting a minor or prostitutes under 16. Eleven people were arrested on probable cause for sex trafficking.
“This operation is an example of the aggressive steps necessary to stop traffickers and johns who buy and sell people for sex in our communities,” BCA Supt. Drew Evans said.
Officials said undercover agents posed as minors or sex buyers on social media platforms and arranged a meeting place.
“While the eyes of the basketball world were focused on the court at the U.S. Bank Stadium, some were attempting to hide in the shadows of our great community, trafficking and exploiting women and girls, inflicting unimaginable physical and emotional harm, and profiting from pain,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.
Several victims advocate organizations including Alexandria House, Breaking Free and The Linkhave helped the women who were rescued.
A similar sting operation was done in January and February for the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Police there arrested 169 people over an 11-day period.