Brown County, WI

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in Brown County, Wisconsin.  For example, in October 2017, sixteen people were arrested in Brown County on charges including human trafficking, prostitution and drug offenses during the local component of a nationwide human trafficking effort, Operation Cross Country XI.  Officers posted online to target “johns,” and had dozens of people responding to undercover officers within a matter of hours. Investigators also focused on the supply-side of trafficking, responding to ads from women advertising sex.

Among the tactics used to address these problems are those that focus on consumer level demand for commercial sex.  In a web-based reverse sting conducted in August, 2017, thirty-five men were arrested for attempting to buy sex during a four-day operation at several locations in Brown County.  Most of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office prostitution operations use internet sites such as Backpage, Craigslist, or any other escort internet websites, to make initial contact with potential sex buyers.  The August 2017 operation was coordinated with the National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI), which started in Cook County Illinois in 2011.  The 2017 NJSI operation happened between June 28 and July 31, and involved 37 law enforcement agencies across 17 states. The goal is to cut the demand and therefore lower the number of young women solicited for sex, targeting sex buyers and directing victims to support resources in the community.  One month after the Brown County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 35 men for sex trafficking, officials announced another 25 arrests for the same thing.

In the summer of 2018, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office again collaborated with other agencies in the area and conducted web-based reverse stings as part of the NJSI.  The sheriff’s office, along with the police departments of Green Bay, De Pere and Ashwaubenon, contributed 19 arrests in July and August, 2018.  All 19 suspects were charged in Brown County with trying to buy sex, in addition to other charges.  Other charges included receiving compensation for human trafficking. for one suspect who was offering the services of a teenager for sex in Green Bay; using computers to solicit child sex and intimate photos.  Two of the men were arrested for attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex, and one man tried to buy sex with a juvenile male, and faced Child Sex Crime charges.

A variation of the “Dear John” letter tactic was used during the 2018 Brown County reverse stings coordinated with the NJSI.  Computer IDs, phone numbers, and other information was used to identify people who responded to the online ads placed by investigators. There were 409 people who police made contact with online, but did not incriminate themselves enough to warrant charges. Those people have been sent written warnings by police.  Those who responded and actually set up a meeting with the decoy prostitutes and trafficking victims were arrested, but those who stopped at establishing a line of communication with the person they believed was in prostitution were targeted with the notice.

Key Partners

  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office
  • Brown County Drug Task Force
  • Green Bay Police Department
  • De Pere Police Department
  • Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department
  • Cook County Sheriff’s Office
  • Wisconsin Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
State Wisconsin
Type County
Population 258718
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