The FBI recently released its crime statistics report of 2016. In contains a breakdown of Human Trafficking by state which includes “commercial sex acts” and “involuntary servitude.” One state stood out from all of the others regarding human trafficking: Minnesota.
|State||Population||Sex Offenses, 2016||Offenses per MM|
Among mid-sized states of 4.5 million to 7 million, only Louisiana and Minnesota had over 100 cases of human trafficking, and Minnesota had almost twice as many as Louisiana. Minnesota had seven times the number of incidents as its neighbor (and similarly sized) Wisconsin.
Are there more women in Minnesota than other states? Greater poverty? More lenient laws about prostitution, whether on the streets or escort services? What could account for such a disparity?
The male/ female breakdown in Minnesota and Wisconsin is identical at 49.6%/50.4%, and the number of people in poverty in Minnesota is among the lowest in the country. Large metropolitan areas like Minneapolis-St. Paul have seen dramatic improvements in poverty, bringing it to the second to lowest of any major city in the United States.
So prostitution is not correlated to the number of women or poverty (terrorism is also not related to poverty, although the United Nations and the Obama administration often argued that it was).
Maybe it has to do with state laws regarding prostitution.
Every state has laws making it illegal to pay for sex (which many believe are completely illogical, including Amnesty International). However, the penalties for prostitution vary significantly by state.
Minnesota has relatively light punishments for the first offense (up to 90 days in jail and/or $1000. Afterwards it jumps to up to 1 year in jail and $3000 per offense. The penalties in Wisconsin are much steeper: up to 9 months in jail and/or fines of $10,000. That is a significant difference and would seem to suggest that penalties – not ubiquity or economic situation – correlate to human trafficking.
However, there is no broad-based correlation. Missouri has even more lenient penalties (30 days to 6 months and/or $500) with only 1/16th the number of arrests. Similarly, South Carolina (first offense 30 days and $200; second offense 6 months and $1000; thereafter 1 year and/or $3000) had 1/10th the number of arrests as Minnesota.
So a large number of prostitution-related arrests does not correlate to laws permitting the practice or the penalties associated with breaking the law.
Then what would account for the difference? How is Minnesota different than every other state that would cause such a disproportionate number of prostitutes?
A deeper look into the FBI tables may yield some clues.
In most states, the number of people arrested were disproportionately black. In Wisconsin, 77% of those arrested were black, in a state that is 80% white. Tennessee had an equal number of whites and blacks arrested (and a few Asians) in a state that is 73% white. South Carolina did not list the race of many of those arrested, but for those that it did, 83% were black in a state where 26% of the residents are black.
But in Minnesota, 69% of the arrests were of white people (in a state that is 80% white). It was the only state which had a somewhat proportionate number of white people arrested as resided in the state. Without the prosecution of white people, the statistics for Minnesota would more closely resemble the rest of the country.
These white people were not recent arrivals to American shores. While Minnesota may have a reputation of being home to Scandinavian immigrants (hence the NFL football team being called the Vikings), the state had 8.3% of the people being foreign-born with only 29.1% of those immigrants being white. That compares to Wisconsin with 44.7% of the foreign-born population being white.
So are there simply more white prostitutes and johns in Minnesota than everywhere else in the country? As the state of Minnesota uses a greater number of undercover cops to catch the buyers and sellers of sex, could they be actively selecting white people for arrests? As the MN police departments have shifted to viewing women as victims, are they more likely to arrest only men?
Quite possibly. It would appear that “white male privilege” in prostitution has hit a wall in Minnesota.
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