City Hall Update // City Council takes stand against ads linked to child sex trafficking

A City Council committee approved a resolution Aug. 2 calling on Village Voice Media to end the publication of the adult section of Backpage.com, which has been linked to youth prostitution. 

 

All of the 20 juvenile sex-trafficking cases investigated in 2012 by Minneapolis Police have involved youth advertised via Backpage.com, according to law enforcement officials.

 

Village Voice Media owns the City Pages and several other publications across the country.

 

Assistant Police Chief Janeé 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 to agencies and nonprofits taking on 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 was expected to vote on the resolution calling on Village Voice to stop the publication of the Backpage.com adult classifieds ads on Aug. 17, which was after this issue of the Southwest Journal went to press. 

 

Village Voice Media did not respond to a request for comment. 

 

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Grant will fund new trail along Mississippi River in Northeast

 

A bicycle and pedestrian trail project that will run parallel to the Mississippi River between 16th and 8th avenues in Northeast has received a $1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, according to Minneapolis Park

and Recreation Board officials.

 

The 0.75-mile trail will traverse Boom Island Park through the former Scherer Brothers Lumber Company site and then continue to Sheridan Memorial Park in Northeast. Construction must begin by 2015 according to the grant’s

conditions and will run through some private land, said Andrew Caddock, project manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. MPRB bought the land from Scherer Brothers Lumber Company in 2010 and park construction

for that site could begin next year.

 

“I think it will add a great deal to the community,” said Caddock adding that the new trail will be a step toward completing the board’s RiverFirst and Above the Falls plans which call for continuous parks and trails along the river.

“Not only will it connect some old parks, it will connect some new parks as well.”

 

— Tim Sturrock