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Police Detective Captain talks about prostitution arrests in Bozeman

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 25, 2023

BOZEMAN — At the SpringHill Suites off Baxter Lane is where the Bozeman Police Department arrested 18 people over the weekend in a prostitution sting operation.

“I would say that a lot of ways it's a bigger problem than what most people probably realize. The fact that we can identify 18 people in just a few days that are participating in this sort of thing should give us pause,” says Detective Captain Dana McNeil.

The Gallatin County Justice Courtoom was crowded Monday morning as many of the accused faced the judge for the first time.

After a three-day sting operation that Bozeman Police set out on to see just how big the issue of human trafficking is in Bozeman, it left even Detective McNeil surprised.

“It's part of why we do these operations to help identify just how big a problem it may be,” says McNeil.

According to Capt. McNeil, the Montana state legislature increased the penalty for prostitution, making the first offense a felony in the state. McNeil says that was a motivator for the department to take a closer look at human trafficking.

“It’s to help us to identify people who are on all sides of this issue with human trafficking, exploitation, whether that be the people providing those services, the people that are exploiting others, or the people who are patronizing those services,” says McNeil.

McNeil says detectives worked with those on the front lines to find out what social media sites are used to meet people; they even try to track down lingo that is used to fly under the radar. McNeil says detectives acted as those who were offering the services online, asking the 18 men to meet them at the hotel.

“So these investigations can be very complicated. They obviously use social media and technology to facilitate them,” says McNeil.

Of the 18 men and charged with felony prostitution, they include Brian Heck, Belgrade School Trustee who resigned on Monday. A former Bozeman High assistant football coach, Mark Naharniak. Bozeman Schools Superintendent announced Monday that Naharniak was suspended.

The men face anywhere from 0-5 years behind bars if convicted. Their bail amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000.