The wild side of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally typically results in speeding tickets, DUI arrests and disorderly conduct charges. But law enforcement agents also fight a more sinister criminal element.
While the rally overall is a lawful celebration of cycles and summer, it also has its dark side. That includes felony drug arrests and even more shocking crimes that lurk on the ragged edges of the rally.
That's where undercover agents in a multi-agency task force reach out on internet sites to those seeking sex with children.
"In a general sense, what the joint operation is is that there are advertisements and posts put up selling young children, usually at a very young age, for sexual activities," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said. "And what the operation does is when people respond, we ultimately, basically once there has been sufficient steps toward committing a very serious crime toward young children we will intervene and then make the arrest."
Jackley was in Sturgis in the early days of the rally this year, along with Brendan Johnson, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota. They meet with members of the state, local and federal team who worked long, late hours from a sparse operations center to catch men seeking who seek sex with teenage girls under 16.
Last year, agents ran a sting operation at the rally that ended in the arrest of nine people for commercial sex trafficking, typically involving teenage girls under 16. Operating this year, the agents charged six others, a slight decline that Jackley hopes is a trend.
"I think overall when you look at the operation that state, federal and local law enforcement are putting on, I mean, the desire is to remove dangerous sex predators off our streets, but also to provide awareness and serve as a deterrent so that the bad guys are hesitant to be out there searching to really seek out young children," Jackley said.
Jackley says it's important to remember that the rally sting operations are aimed at a very significant but tiny percentage of people.
"The Sturgis event is a very positive event for South Dakota, but with it comes a certain criminal element," Jackley said. "And what our job in law enforcement is to do the best job we can to protect South Dakota from that small segment of the criminal element."
Jackley said officials weren't ready Monday to release the names of those arrested. But four of them are from other states, one from Canada and one from South Dakota. Most will likely be charged in federal court.