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Human Trafficking - Also A South Dakota Problem

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Human Trafficking is a worldwide problem that is felt in South Dakota.  (Image (State/VT./U.S.)
Human Trafficking is a worldwide problem that is felt in South Dakota. (Image (State/VT./U.S.)
Brendon Johnson on the Greg ... (Download MP3)

 SIOUX FALLS, S. D. (KELO AM) - As in the movie “Taken” young women are grabbed and put into a world of drugs and prostitution.  Human Trafficking is seen as a world wide problem, but it is also a South Dakota problem. 

“What we have in South Dakota is people who come into our state and they start grooming young girls for commercial sex trafficking,” said Brendan Johnson, United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota.  “At first these people are very kind to these girls when they bring them into the ring, and then they brutalize them and keep them from leaving the ring.  Eventually they will put their pictures on their websites and pimp them out.”

Johnson said that you may hear of it happening once or twice in South Dakota, but that isn’t the case.   We had a case with Brandon Thompson who had about 20 victims, and he was given a life sentence.  As recently as last Friday, Carl Campbell had about a dozen victims and he received three life sentences.  We have several others who have pled guilty, been convicted at trial or are awaiting trial. 

“We have formed some task forces that deal with terrorism, drugs and human trafficking,” said Johnson.  “We want to make sure information is being exchanged between state and local law enforcement and the federal law enforcement.  We want to ensure that information can be exchanged quickly and there is an agreement in place to do so.”

Johnson said, in South Dakota, we don’t have the fighting between agencies like in other states.  We have the memorandums of understanding in place incase something comes up from some other place. 

“We want victims to come forward to help us prosecute these people,” said Johnson.  “They may have smoked pot or engaged in sexual activity earlier.  They are victims of a much larger problem and we aren’t interested in prosecuting them for a misdemeanor crime.  We are interested in going after these pimps that keep these people in constant fear.”

Johnson discussed the prosecutions on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.  He said prosecutions were up 82 and 130 percents.  We are working with these communities in weeding out the bad and plant the seeds for future growth.  We are also working with kids in schools to develop new program to help. 

“Some of the biggest obstructions in these communities have been political turnover,” said Johnson.  “You work with leaders who you work well with and they lose the next election.  The next people in may not be law enforcement minded and want to take a couple of steps back.  We want to work with people who are going to want to make progress in these areas.

Brendon Johnson was interviewed on the Greg Belfrage show June 3, 2013

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