The man who was propositioned at Applebee’s, 67-year-old David Paulseth, said he wasn’t that surprised.
He’s been in town frequently doing auditing work from his hometown, about 200 miles east, and has watched the changes.
“They’d come over to whoever’s house or meet up at a truck or whatever.” But as other criminal activity has thrived, small towns rarely do the stings anymore.
“Those investigations are more time-intensive and, as you can imagine, most of the time we’re running around sticking our finger in the dike trying to keep it from bursting,” said Art Walgren, police chief of Watford City.
That was only a dozen fewer than were posted at the same time for Minneapolis/St.
Paul, which has nearly five times the population of all of North Dakota.
“People aren’t used to seeing this sort of activity.” Purdon and state leaders are starting to address the problem: sending more law enforcement to the Bakken, forming a task force to come up with a plan of attack.
But for now, “it is so blatant,” said Windie Lazenko, a sex-trafficking survivor-turned-advocate who took it upon herself to move to Williston last year. It’s going on in Wal-Mart.” In plain sight Even some regular businesses here use sex to sell.
Most sex sales are forced or coerced by pimps, national advocates say.
A 2009 North Dakota law against human trafficking goes after pimps with harsh consequences: life in prison for trafficking a minor, or up to 20 years for trafficking an adult.
This once-quiet cow town never had to worry much about big-city problems.
But with the oil boom overwhelming everything here the past few years, understaffed local law enforcement has let much of the sex-trade go unchecked, unwilling to pour time into what some view as low-level, victimless offenses, leaders say.
Proving a case against a pimp is much harder than finding a victim, though. “That’s 11 dudes who allegedly thought it would be a good idea to spend their weekend using [Backpage] to arrange commercial sex with a 14-year-old girl,” he said. Kevin Cramer have since emerged as key leaders in combating trafficking, partly by pushing to get more state and federal resources to the oil patch.