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In Watford City, about 45 miles south of Williston, police officer Ryan Chaffee worked on one of those stings and was surprised at how easy it was to find sex for hire, he said.
“It’s easier to get a prostitute than it is ordering pizza,” he said.
The man who was propositioned at Applebee’s, 67-year-old David Paulseth, said he wasn’t that surprised.
Down the highway, a taxi company has fliers featuring silhouettes of dancing women, saying they have “cute girls” and “LOVE Long Trips.” Nick Ethridge, 22, a day laborer who moved to Williston from Tennessee, said a young woman at a bar asked him to host a party, saying she would “take care of business with all the dudes.” The woman’s pimp sat nearby. “I’m thinking, ‘Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? “The ones that are here aren’t too bashful.” Offers are flourishing online, too. on a recent Tuesday, in Minot listed 64 escort ads posted that day, most of them for Williston.
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.
“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.
“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.