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Ann Arbor is a city of about 121,000 residents located west of Detroit, along Interstate 94 in Washtenaw County. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement and community partners as a strategy for prevention and response. The first known reverse sting in the city occurred in 1978. In that two-day operation, 18 men were arrested and were released on bond. The arrested sex buyers could have faced up to 90 days in jail and fined up to $100 at the time. Reverse stings were still periodically conducted by police up to 2021, due in part to complaints from local businesses. A “john school” was established by a counseling center in Ann Arbor, but it served the neighboring city of Ypsilanti, so it is discussed in that city’s summary.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in June, 2016, Club Wolverine‘s head coach was fired after being arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution while in Omaha, Nebraska for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to one day in jail. He had been arrested about at a hotel near the CenturyLink Center during an Omaha Police Department sting operation. A total of 11 people were arrested during the reverse sting. The offender was hired as the head coach of Club Wolverine in 2011. A message was sent to the team saying that their coach had violated his contract terms and been terminated.
On January 14, 2021, the Washtenaw County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney announced that, effective immediately, prostitution had been decriminalized within the county. The new policy stated that no charges will be authorized against those engaged in “consensual sex work,” and that the policy applies to sex buyers as well as to prostituted persons. The de facto decriminalization does not apply to sex trafficking of either minors or adults. Police could potentially continue to arrest sex buyers, since state law still prohibits prostitution, but it remains to be seen whether they will do so since they know the charges will not be pursued by the prosecutor’s office.
- Ann Arbor Police Department
National Assessment Interview (2012)
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
Sex Buyer Identity Disclosure, Loss of Employment:
- https://swimswam.com/cw-coach-kelton-graham-cw-fired-allegedly-solicited-prostitution/ (2016)
- https://kearneyhub.com/news/state/coach-in-omaha-for-swim-trials-arrested-on-suspicion-of-soliciting-prostitution-fired-by-club (2016)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Coming to a Truck Stop Near You,” National Review, January 15 2008.
- “Woman Accused of Running Ann Arbor Prostitution Ring to Face Trial,” Ann Arbor News, May 24 2015.
- “Woman Accused of Running Ann Arbor Prostitution Ring Pleads Guilty, Won’t See Jailtime,” Ann Arbor News, August 14 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Owner Pleads Guilty to Running Illegal Massage Parlors,” Ann Arbor News, January 30 2004.
- “Spa Owner Pleads Guilty,” Ann Arbor News, February 6 2004.
- “Brothel Crackdown Paid Off; Prostitution Probe Closed 5 Sites; Police Got $500,000 in Forfeitures,” Ann Arbor News, September 6 2006.
- “Spa Busted in Brothel Sting; Police Shut Ann Arbor Site, Saying Women Offered Sex for Money,” Ann Arbor News, October 12 2006.
- https://www.michigandaily.com/former-student-advertises-self-online/ (2009)
- https://annarborobserver.com/road_back_from_walking_the_streets (2014)
- https://www.washtenaw.org/Problem-Oriented-Policing-Overview (2017)
- https://www.mlive.com/embattled_hotel_with_history_of prostitution.html (2018)
- https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/pimp_arrested_at_ann_arbor_hot.html (2018)
- https://www.mlive.com/attorney-claims-woman-was-sex-worker-long-before-meeting-alleged-pimp (2020)
2021 Decriminalization Policy
- https://www.washtenaw.org/DocumentCenter/19157/Sex-Work-Policy (2021)
- https://www.washtenaw.org/Sex-Work-Policy (2021)
- https://www.michigandaily.com/washtenaw-county-prosecutor-makes-sweeping-changes-during-first-two-weeks-office (2021)
- https://wkfr.com/washtenaw-county-sex-work/ (2021)
- https://www.freep.com/sex-workers-washtenaw-county-prosecutor-decriminalization/ (2021)
- https://www.clickondetroit.com/washtenaw-county-prosecutor-announces-office-will-no-longer-pursue-charges-for-consensual-sex-work/ (2021)