Minneapolis and Hennepin County law enforcement officials are training staff from metro area hotels on ways to identify and help prevent child sex trafficking this afternoon at the Best Western Normandy Hotel Inn & Suites.
Dan McElroy, president of the Minnesota Lodging Association, said the motto they are trying to reiterate with hotels across the state is the following: "If you see something, say something."
McElroy, along with Minneapolis, Hennepin and Ramsey County public safety officials, briefed reporters on the latest efforts to fight child sex trafficking before the training session.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said hotels have been important partners in convicting traffickers. He referenced a hotel worker in Roseville who tipped police off to a case of child prostitution at the hotel. The trafficker was later sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Minneapolis Police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said police have made 19 arrests at hotels since early last year. He said it's "as easy as ordering a pizza" to have a child prostitute sent to someone's hotel room.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said she's directing more resources to fight child sex trafficking. Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder, who is overseeing today's training session, has been working fulltime on youth prostitution/trafficking cases for the past year.
City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, another community leader leading the fight against trafficking, said it's important people know what they can do to help. "Our message to the victims is that we are here to help. As a community, together we can make a difference," she said.
The City Council is holding a hearing on the latest efforts to fight youth prostitution in Minneapolis on Jan. 16.
The Journals recently featured an indepth report called "Out of the dark" examining what is being done to fight the problem.