August 2, 2012 by Sarah M
// By Sarah McKenzie //
A City Council committee approved a resolution this morning calling on Village Voice Media (owner of the City Pages and several other newspapers across the country) to end the publication of the adult section of Backpage.com — its online classified section.
All of the 20 juvenile sex-trafficking cases investigated in 2012 by Minneapolis have involved youth advertised via Backpage.com, according to law enforcement officials.
Assistant Police Chief Janee Harteau and City Attorney Susan Segal briefed Council members on the city’s efforts to fight child sex-trafficking. Along with stepped up enforcement of prostitution laws, city leaders have been working with community partners to develop a service network for the victims of sex trafficking. They have also reached out to Minneapolis hotels to train staff to look for signs of trafficking.
Most of the youth involved in trafficking are runaways.
“There could be kids right now in public libraries with their pimps making dates through Backpage.com,” Segal said at the Council meeting.
The average age a girl gets involved in sex trafficking is 12 to 14, according to statistics highlighted in the resolution written by Council Member Elizabeth Glidden.
The scope of the problem is staggering. According to a service provider cited in the resolution, 8,000 to 12,000 people are estimated to be involved in prostitution/sex trafficking in Minnesota on a daily basis.
The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, a nonprofit based in the Mill District neighborhood, has also been a leader in raising awareness about child sex trafficking. The foundation is spearheading a $4 million campaign called MN Girls Are Not For Sale (mngirlsarenotforsale.org) to fight the prostitution of girls in the state. It awarded its first round of grants agencies and nonprofits tackling the problem earlier this year.
The foundation referenced a study indicating that the number of adolescent girls prostituted on Internet ads has risen dramatically — increasing 166 percent in a 10-month period in 2010 compared to the year before.
The full City Council is expected to vote on the resolution calling on Village Voice to stop the publication of the Backpage.com adult classifieds ads on Aug. 17.