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Published January 11 2013

Police chiefs meet to hash out adult dancing laws

FARGO – Police chiefs from Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo met Friday to discuss how to uniformly regulate adult entertainers in the area, with hopes of curbing prostitution and other illegal offshoots.

“Collectively, all three police chiefs want to cover the same issues so that we don’t push a problem into each other’s town,” Moorhead Chief David Ebinger said after the meeting with Fargo Chief Keith Ternes and West Fargo Chief Arland Rasmussen.

Ternes said Fargo police have been developing their ordinance for the better part of the past year, and Ebinger plans to brief the Moorhead City Council on his draft proposal Jan. 22.

While minor differences will likely exist between the cities’ ordinances, Ternes said the general themes are agreed upon.

A key component will be licensing adult entertainment businesses and the entertainers themselves, who advertise as models, exotic dancers and escorts.

Through licensing, police will know who is engaged in lawful adult entertainment, Ternes said. Fargo’s ordinance will likely include annual license renewal fees and occasional inspections to ensure that entertainers are carrying their licenses, he said.

Adult entertainers will be required to operate out of appropriately zoned areas, as opposed to someone’s home in a residential area, he said.

Ebinger said police have dealt for years with the issue of online and print advertisers who claim to offer legal dancing and escort services but then offer illegal services, “but it’s really become more pronounced in the last couple of years.”

“We’re not trying to make private dancers or escorts illegal, it’s just any of the accompanying prostitution issues,” which can include coercion, physical and sexual abuse and drug addiction, he said. “When this is driven underground, obviously the entertainers themselves are put at risk, some of the clients are put at risk and we’ve got some real problems with human trafficking involving minors.”

Ternes said the chiefs hope to have the ordinances approved and in effect by roughly the same time this spring, and he said Fargo is willing to delay introducing its ordinance to make that happen.

Sheriff’s offices and rural communities in Cass and Clay counties may also become involved if they so choose, Ternes said.

Ebinger said he’s already been contacted by Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist about looking at Moorhead’s draft ordinance, details of which Ebinger said he couldn’t discuss until briefing the City Council.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528