ST. CLOUD -- Our eyes were opened earlier this year with the realization that sex trafficking is a huge problem here in the St. Cloud area.

St. Cloud Police arrested several people in 2016 who pleaded guilty to using women to make them money by selling sex.

Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall says pimps have learned they can make a lot of money by controlling women and using them to make money.

"These are criminals who've been criminals for a long time. But this is a profitable business in St. Cloud," says Kendall.

A national push to cut down on trafficking people for sex has led to increased investigations and prosecutions. In fact, six area police departments collaborated in 2012 to form a sex trafficking task force to jail those who traffic women, charge those who buy sex and give sex-trafficked girls a way out.

"It's our policy in our task force to not arrest a prostitute. Right away we give them a chance to get out of the life style," says Waite Park Sergeant Tim Deschene.

Police say you can help by being aware of what's happening around you and reporting to police the suspicious behavior at places where sex trafficking may be happening, such as truck stops, hotels, casinos and on the streets.

Scroll down to see our In-Depth Video on Sex Trafficking!