Local law enforcement targets human trafficking


Over the past six weeks, investigators from the Superior Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Duluth Police Department and the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force have initiated several undercover operations focused on addressing crimes associated with human trafficking, including prostitution, and patronizing and solicitation of prostitutes.

According to a news release issued by Superior Deputy Chief Nicholas Alexander:

The first operation Oct. 18 focused on identifying prostitutes. Undercover officers involved in the operation answered online advertisements posted by suspected prostitutes. The advertisements focused on pay-for-sex services. Two females followed through on the solicitations and arrived at the agreed upon location. A 35-year-old Dulugh woman and 22-year-old Superior woman were arrested for prostitution and have been referred to the Douglas County District Attorney's office for prosecution.

Additional information developed from this operation led to a search warrant and arrest of a Douglas County resident, Charles David Sislo, 39. Sislo was charged with pandering/solicitation of prostitutes, possession of methamphetamine and other drug-related charges, and financial crime violations.

The second operation conducted Nov. 26 and focused on people involved in the solicitation of prostitution, commonly referred to as "Johns." Investigators created and posted online advertisements on Backpage.com offering pay-for-sex services. The investigators then responded to the phone calls from men soliciting prostitution services in response to the online ad. Four men responded to the advertisement and arrived at the agreed upon location. They presented money for payment, condoms, and conversation regarding the requested sexual activities. Arrested were a 45-year-old from Iron River, 31-year-old from the town of Superior, and 61-year-old and 26-year-old from Duluth.

The final operation conducted Nov. 29 again focused on those soliciting prostitutes. This operation was a continuation of the Backpage.com advertisement used Nov. 26. Three men were arrested for patronizing/soliciting prostitutes, a 50-year-old from Britt, Minn., 60-year-old from Superior, and 36-year-old from Wrenshall, Minn.

Nationwide the issue of human trafficking has been getting greater attention. Many of those engaged in prostitution are not doing so voluntarily, Alexander stated in the news release. Someone may be forcing them into these activities by withholding money, drugs or perhaps threatening to take away food and shelter. In other cases the threat or use of physical harm is used. Enforcing the prostitution and solicitation laws is just one way we can help reduce the instances of human trafficking in our communities, Alexander said.

All arrested persons have been referred to the District Attorney's office for prosecution.

This is an ongoing investigation.