Sioux Falls Police Cracking Down on “Johns”

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Prostitution may be a bigger problem in Sioux Falls than most people realize. Police were surprised at the number of inquiries they got to an undercover ad, indicating that the demand for prostitution is high in this area. Because of this, police are changing the targets of their undercover investigations.

“We know that there are people that are traveling from city to city and they’re involved with human trafficking and they stop in Sioux Falls because they know they can make money here,” said Officer Sam Clemens with the Sioux Falls Police Department.

Police are trying to change this.

“If we can curb that demand then hopefully we’ll see less human trafficking, at least coming through Sioux Falls,” said Officer Clemens.

With reverse prostitution operations, police are seeking out those who are soliciting sex, commonly known as “Johns.”

“We had a few female officers that had ads placed on some internet sites that are commonly used to advertise for prostitution,” said  Officer Clemens.

Recently, police arrested two men who responded to the ads. They are 53-year-old David Cleveringa from Sioux Center, Iowa and 55-year-old Kevin Van Beek from Inwood, Iowa. Both were arrested for Hiring For Sexual Activity, which is a misdemeanor. Police say these arrests are just the start. The officers received over 100 phone calls and texts with people interested in their ads.

“Hopefully we can reduce some of the demand we have going on,” said Officer Clemens, “Obviously the whole goal of this is to try to get those involved in human trafficking and get them out of that situation. Find them, get them to a safe place.”

Michelle Markgraf, Executive Director at the Compass Center is happy to see police changing their focus.

“The really big thing is to put the blame where the blame should be and that’s with the “Johns” that are coming in and asking for money for sex,” said Markgraf, “Rather than always saying that person is a prostitute and realizing that often times they are actually victims of trafficking.”

The Compass Center helps around 600 victims of sexual and domestic violence a year. As Sioux Falls grows, so has the human trafficking problem.  

“It is fairly common here, still very much hidden. So a lot of people don’t realize it’s going on and a lot of it never comes to light because it is so hidden,” said Markgraf.

Police say they will continue to conduct these undercover operations to combat human trafficking and prostitution.

State leaders will also be addressing the issue at the second annual Human Trafficking Awareness Conference. It’s being held at the Pierre Ramkota, March 7-8. Governor Kristi Noem and Marcia Hultman, Cabinet Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation will be speaking at the event in Pierre. The conference is for law enforcement officials, civic leaders and any interested community members.

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