Sept. 2-PAC report, part 1: MPD Sex Crimes Investigations Unit

The meeting was called to order by Emilie Quast at 6:12; 10 attenders.

Our speaker this month was Lt. Nick Torborg, who leads the Sex Crimes Unit for the MPD.  Lt. Torborg has been with the MPD 23 years.  He actually got his college degree in Biology;  a ride-along with a friend revealed that policing is a way of helping people.  After several years other units, he got moved  to his current job.

This unit includes 7 investigators, who hold the rank of Sergeant, and also has three subunits: Predatory Offender Registration Unit, Sex Trafficking Unit, and Missing Juvenile Unit, all these are also led by sergeants.

The crimes usually investigated are Criminal Sexual Conduct/Rape (CSCR), Indecent exposure. Stalking, Interference with privacy (peeping toms), Child pornography, Luring, Solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct (CSCM), Beastiality, Nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.
The Predatory Offender Registration Unit is the unit that tracks registered offenders.  Homeless registered offenders are required to appear before this unit once a week. An issue is that many of the people who are reporting to the unit are periodically or chronically homeless.  In consequence, the unit verifies that their clients are actually living where they say they are living, that they are keeping all the terms of their conditional release. Investigators do make unscheduled visits to their clients at home to verify that all is as it should be.

The Sex Trafficking Unit is led by Sgt. Grant Snyder, who spoke to 2PAC in April, 2016.   [Notes on Snyder’s presentation are in our Courtwatch Archives.  Enter “Grant Snyder” in the search box on the right side of the screen — eq]  Sgt. Snyder is a locally and nationally respected expert in this field.

QUESTION ABOUT INCREASED ACTIVITY DURING THE SUPERBOWL:  The unit will be fighting with  three pronged approach.  There will be many more people on the street, watching for illegal activity. There are already many more people scouring the media, looking for evidence of planned activity.  There will be more closely-focused coordination among official agencies.  This unit already conducts Guardian Angel operations on a regular basis. [Background information on this organization of many local and national organizations can be found here:  http://www.startribune.com/stings-to-fight-sex-trafficking-lead-to-charges-across-the-metro/329959861/   Note that faith organizations are part of this operation. — eq]

The third unit in the SCU is the Missing Juvenile Unit, which may seem like a strange fit, but it was discovered that too many juveniles who have left home are being sexually exploited, so  this is the unit very likely to find them.  The unit already is a direct connect between a juvenile and the social services she or he needs.

Lt. Torborg assures us he likes “information calls” — if possible, he wants a cop to interview you while your information is fresh but getting an officer to your door might be a lower priority than other calls, especially “person at risk.”   A lot of things that are reported are not actually a crime, but may be a suggestion that something more serious is behind the activity.  There is a lot of activity, and the unit is very limited by short staffing.  The unit, with only 7 investigators, reported a total number of cases January through August this year at 693 (100 cases per investigator).  Of these 387 were  CSC/Rape, 165 were Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor (CSCM),  20 were stalking, 39 were index, 6 were peeping toms, and 21 were reports of luring or enticing minors.
The national statistical reports are grim:  there is one sexual assault in the U.S. every 98 seconds; 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be a victim in their lifetimes; females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely to be a victim of a sexual assault than the general population; 66% of all rape victims know their assailants (but it’s Lt. Torborg’s experience that 90% is likely).  Note that while there are 7 assigned investigators, for various reasons (including giving court testimony, attending  mandatory training sessions, and more) they’re lucky to have 5 people in the office on any day.  For the same reason, many investigations stop on Fridays and are picked up on Mondays.

QUESTION about child porn.  They’re getting cases all the time.   The FBI is continuously  monitoring media for porn videos and images; it tracks the source of the porn.  If it’s in Mpls this dept. will be notified for closer investigation.

Luring: the  issue is tied to entice a child to “come for a ride”.  By law, unless they solicit a minor of a crime it is not a law, and the police can only ask  kids for what they understand.

Another big issue is non-consensual dissemination of “private” photos. As of last year, new state law made this a gross misdemeanor or felony, but there are stipulations like the victim  must be identifiable.
In Lt. Torberg‘s view, homicide is awful, but rape is worse in many ways.  Counseling people is difficult because you must not blame the victim — remember we all make mistakes.  Young people are not likely to be aware how much intoxication puts them at risk.  Accepting a drink from someone you don’t know or even leaving a drink unattended when you turn your back may lead to assault.  People have told him that they have zero recollection of an incident — a good indicator that their drink had been tampered.  This is more difficult to prove because the most common drugs used are metabolized very quickly and won’t show up on a drug profile.  If drugging is suspected, his department hopes for bar videos to catch the incident.  These have been very helpful.
Working with the Attorneys Offices:  It’s the attorney’s duty to require evidence that will prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.  They will coach the officers to find the evidence they need to bring the case to trial.
Lt. Torborg has seen that some victims get a measure of satisfaction just from the act of reporting an incident, even in a case the department can’t take to court.  The evidence, especially the DNA, remains on file indefinitely, and if a suspect is brought to trial  in another case, that DNA will be brought forward and will be submitted to the court.  If matching DNA is reported on  several reports, that may lead to a closer watch on a suspect.
One aspect of this department’s work give Lt. Torborg great satisfaction:  while all crimes are serious to the victims and to the police, some seem to lead to a pattern of “second” chances for the criminals.  When the SCU gets a conviction, that criminal will be off the street for a very long time.
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