Posted 12/29/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
An advocate for victims of sex trafficking said there is a market in Tioga, but since much of the business is arranged through Internet sites, it remains invisible.
That could be why police don’t have much to say about it.
Windie Lazenko, executive director of 4Her out of Williston, works with victims of sex trafficking. She’s been involved in the advocacy work for six years, two of which have been spent in North Dakota.
She said the problem is not limited to Williston. Many of the girls have told her they work all over the oil patch.
“A good majority have gotten called to Tioga,” she said.
But Tioga Police Chief Larry Maize said they haven’t seen a lot of activity involved with the sex trade in town.
“It’s not something we’ve really dealt with,” Maize said.
Considering how the Bakken sex trade works, it’s not surprising. Lazenko said there aren’t girls standing
on street corners or waiting in bars to meet potential customers.
Instead, Lazenko explained, the deals are made by computer.
She declined to discuss specifics about the sites where the deals are arranged for fear of providing that information to men seeking sex services.
She stressed that a wide majority of these women are not choosing to be prostitutes.
Instead, they are coerced into the trade by pimps who operate all over the Bakken.
“These girls are not prostitutes. They’re victims of sex trafficking,” Lazenko said.
The pimps, Lazenko said, bring the girls from all over the country and even overseas to satisfy a demand created by the oil boom.
“Tioga has a large population of men who work for the oil field,” she said.
Sadly, she said a portion of the victims are minors.
She said law enforcement in the Bakken is dealing with the problem, but they’re playing catch up to a situation that arose with the oil boom. It’s taking some time to get up to speed.
“I’d say they’re three to five years behind the rest of the country,” she said.
She said she would like to see local departments receive more training, especially about the “safe harbor” laws.
These laws defer sentences of women convicted of prostitution if they can show they were coerced into the trade.
Maize said his department is aware of the “safe harbor” laws and how they work.