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Big Rapids is the county seat of Mecosta County, MI and has a population of approximately 10,400 residents. The city is located within Big Rapids Township, but is politically independent. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential complaints to local law enforcement. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
In effort to reduce the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking in the city, various tactics targeting individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex have been deployed in the city. For example. in 2021, the Big Rapids Police Department and the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety participated in a series of web-based reverse sting operations led by the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office, that focused on arresting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. As a result of the operations, six men were arrested and accused of traveling to Mecosta County for the purpose of the commercial sexual exploitation of a 14 or 15-year-old girl. The identities and images of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets. In December, 2021, three men from Big Rapids were arrested in a child sex trafficking sting in Mecosta County. Police say all three suspects traveled individually to Big Rapids Township with the intention of engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor.
Sex buyers have also been arrested as the result of alternative investigations or residential complaints to police. For example, in August, 2015, a Big Rapids landlord was arrested and charged for offenses stemming from his asking perspective tenants for sexual favors in exchange for a discounted rent. According to Big Rapids Police, the offender owns several housing complexes near Ferris State University. According to police, the sex buyer was allegedly showing a woman an apartment when he attempted to solicit sexual favors from her in exchange for a decrease in rent. The offender was charged with accosting and soliciting prostitution. Police sent out a message asking anyone who may have been approached by the offender for sex during a rental showing to contact the Big Rapids Police Department. In 2016, the sex buyer was sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for one day served. This left a balance of 29 days, but the judge suspended 15 days, giving the offender the option to perform 100 hours of community service in lieu of jail for those days. The offender served the remaining 14 days at the Mecosta County Jail. He was placed on probation for one year following his release and was required to pay fines and court costs, as well as $72 in restitution.
Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer; Community Service:
- https://upnorthlive.com/landlord-allegedly-asks-future-tenants-for-sexual-favors-for-rent-decrease (2015)
- https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2015/08/landlord_accused_of_offering_w.html (2015)
- https://fsutorch.com/2015/12/12/chapman-found-guilty-soliciting-prostitution/ (2015)
- https://www.bigrapidsnews.com/local-news/article/Big-Rapids-landlord-sentenced-to-jail-probation (2016)
- https://www.9and10news.com/2016/01/05/big-rapids-landlord-sentenced-for-soliciting-prostitution/ (2016)
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:
- https://www.bigrapidsnews.com/local-news/article/Three-men-arrested-in-Mecosta-County-human (2021)
- https://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/crime/3-arrested-in-mecosta-co-child-sex-trafficking-sting (2021)
- https://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/crime/joint-sting-operation-nets-six-human-trafficking-arrests (2021)
- https://www.fox17online.com/law-enforcement-agencies-discuss-recent-human-trafficking-sting-operations (2021)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.michigan.gov/documents/lara/022017violdec (2017)
- https://bigrapidsdailynews.com/breaking-news/294504 (2017)
- https://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/innovationnews/033017-Ferris-State-University-fights-human-trafficking (2017)
- https://99wfmk.com/whorescornersmichigan2018/ (2018)
- https://www.9and10news.com/human-trafficking-community-group-raises-awareness-in-roscommon/ (2020)