Minot P.D. participates in national prostitution sting

The Minot Police Department arrested five men for solicitation of prostitution in the 12 days leading up to and including Super Bowl Sunday.

The effort was part of the “National Day of Johns Arrests,” with “john” being a slang term for a sex solicitor, which 27 law enforcement agencies across the country participated in this year, although a total of 51 agencies form the coalition.

The Minot arrests for the Class B misdemeanor were Benjamin Sanchez, 22, Minot Air Force Base; David Mackowiak, 41, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Nicholas York, 31, Max; Stephen Latham, 26, Minot; and Jihad Allen-Bey, 25, Minot, who was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

According to local court disposition records, Sanchez has already been processed through court on his charge and was convicted. There is no record for the others accused, who may have not yet appeared.

Those arrests make up just five of the 373 total arrests across the country during the coalition’s efforts. Also, 359 of those were for solicitation, and 14 were for trafficking or pimping.

The nationwide stings, or “sweeps,” were conceived by Thomas Dart, the sheriff for Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, in 2011.

“This has been a focus of Sheriff Dart’s for years prior,” said Ben Breit, the director of communications for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, in a phone interview.

But that focus was local. As Dart began to travel around and meet with other law enforcement agencies, Breit said, he began to see that other agencies appreciated the Cook County model for dealing with prostitution and were trying to implement it into their own tactics. Soon, Dart realized that an organized coalition, focused around the Super Bowl, may be the best way to combat sex trafficking.

The beginnings were “small,” Breit said, with only eight agencies attached to the program. Two of those joining Cook County were the Elgin and Aurora Police Departments, which are both for Chicago suburbs. The others were farther away, with the police departments for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Cincinnati, and Newport News, Va., joining the cause.

The methodology for the program is to focus on the demand side of the sex trade industry, which is often more visible than the increasingly mobile nature of the trafficking industry.

“We have a comprehensive model even beyond the sting. We really focus on going after the johns,” Breit said, although adding that reducing trafficking in the first place is the number one goal.

Many of the women involved in the trade, Breit said, were first brought in as juveniles, and the vast majority are victims. They may have entered the trade against their will for stayed in it because it supports bad habits.

That’s what makes investigating the supply, or pimping and trafficking side, all that much harder than running stings and investigations on johns. Many of the prostitutes are afraid and refuse to speak out.

“It’s very difficult to get one of the women to turn a pimp in. They’re scared, they feel like the pimp ‘loves me,’ or ‘is only one looking after me,'” Breit said.

He added that many of the women have substance abuse problems and they will stay with their pimps to supply their habits, something they may have a much harder time doing outside of that relationship.

In the sweep, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested an alleged pimp who had driven from Arizona to their city to pick up a fake new recruit. When he was busted, officers found he brought an 18-year-old he had allegedly forced into prostitution, along with her 5-year-old son.

She was just one of 31 prostitutes recovered and helped in the sweep. Of those, 17 were adults and 14 were juveniles.

Part of the program, at least in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, involves counseling those women for re-entry into the world.

“Three women on our staff were former prostitutes with many years on the streets before becoming clean,” Breit said. “They can relate in ways that others can’t.”

But while those prostitutes may have a new lease on life, the johns face a minimum total of $149,470 potential fines. In addition to the fines, johns arrested in the sting nationwide also saw 144 of their cars towed or forfeited, eight weapons seized, seven of them taken into custody because of outstanding warrants, and five more taken into custody for either resisting or evading arrest. Fourteen of the johns were also picked up on narcotics charges.