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Oil Patch problem: Prostitution; From Williston to Dickinson, authorities see increase in criminal act

As more single and detached men come to western North Dakota for work, officials are on the lookout for the ladies who might help relieve them of their money.

Prostitution is a growing concern in the Oil Patch, Dickinson Police Department Capt. Dave Wilkie said Thursday, because "we've got a lot of men coming to this area that aren't bringing their families, or their families are behind or they don't have families."

Dickinson is usually a stopping point for prostitutes traveling between Williston, Fargo and other destinations, Wilkie said.

An alleged prostitute skipped court in Dickinson on Thursday.

Ashley Williams, 21, Neshkoro, Wis., was arrested July 20 for prostitution at the AmericInn Motel & Suites in Dickinson.

She was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at City Hall. Municipal Clerk of Court Karen Buresh confirmed Williams absence.

A bench warrant will be issued, City Attorney Matt Kolling said.

A bench warrant will alert North Dakota authorities to Williams' wanted status if she is stopped or arrested for anything in the state, Wilkie said. It will not show up in another state.

Williams was arrested after a front desk worker at the AmericInn notified the police of their suspicions, Wilkie said. Police stopped a man who was seen coming out of William's room who confirmed the illegal activity.

Police then knocked on William's door; she let them in and admitted to the misdemeanor, he said.

Women who engage in prostitution often use online classifieds to advertise when and where they'll be.

"A gal will be coming from the Fargo area on the way to Williston," he said. "Her ad will say she's going to be in Dickinson for two days and then you follow that ad and it will show that she's going to be in Williston for a week."

The Williston Police Department has busted prostitutes with sting operations, Detective Cory Collings said. A lack of manpower limits the number of setups the department can conduct.

"Some of the ones we were hearing about worked their way over to Milwaukee," he said.

"Right now, Williston is the hub for the workers and the skilled laborers, the guys that are getting paid a lot of money -- probably for the first time in their life -- and they don't have a whole heck of a lot to spend it on," Wilkie said.

Prostitution is illegal in 49 of 50 U.S. states.

The exception is Nevada, where "it is unlawful for any person to engage in prostitution or solicitation therefor, except in a licensed house of prostitution," according to state law.

Not every Nevada county allows licensed brothels. It is illegal in Clark County, which holds Las Vegas.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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