Police arrested Cheresse Jennings, 26, Tuesday afternoon and charged her with prostitution, a class B misdemeanor carrying up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Jennings appeared in municipal court Wednesday morning and pled guilty to the charge, according to police records.
Jennings carried a Wisconsin drivers license, but was living in Minot at the time of the arrest. Nobody soliciting sex was charged in the arrest at Minot's Days Inn hotel.
This conviction has been the most recent in a string of regional arrests. Eight people were arrested in Dickinson on prostitution charges over the last weekend, seven of which were men charged on suspicion of soliciting for sex, the Dickinson Press reported, and one woman, also of Wisconsin, was arrested for alleged prostitution. There have also been recent prostitution-related arrests in Williston.
"I'm sure there's no shortage of business" for local police investigating prostitution, said Cpt. Dan Strandburg of the Minot Police Department. "It's just difficult to find manpower to focus on it."
"There's always been prostitution in the community," Strandburg says. "In the past we would respond if we received a complaint or information regarding it, but in today's world there are (more) ways to be aware of it (than in) the past, what with electronic media."
Prostitutes and escorts are increasingly turning to electronic media, like Internet message boards or social networking sites, to increase their visibility to possible clients.
"It used to be something that centered around bars that had dancers in them," Strandburg said, citing bars in town that used to work as strip clubs. Some dancers would go further than dancing for some extra money after the bars had closed. There was a zoning ordinance change in June of 2008 that specified that dance or strip clubs can only be located in heavy-industrial zones. Bars with stripping had three years, due to a grandfather clause, to move their businesses to an approved zone or to remove the stripping aspect of their business.
The recent string of arrests is seen as a growing concern in the region. In Surrey, the police busted a prostitution ring in November and uncovered details about ring hierarchy, prices and recruitment, which Surrey Chief of Police Pete Schneider spoke about to members of the Safe Communities Committee in December. He urged members to become involved in policing prostitution by enacting local ordinances and calling for new legislation.