Brown County, WI

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Brown County is a county in Wisconsin, with a population of approximately 270,00 people. It is the fourth-most populous county in Wisconsin. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the county and surrounding area. For example, in December 2022, a Green Bay man was arrested on 11 charges, including several related to human trafficking. He was charged with Mistreatment of Animals Causing Death, 2nd Degree Sexual Assault as Party to the Crime, Substantial Battery, Keeping a place of Prostitution, three counts of Human Trafficking, and four counts of Felony Bail Jumping. He was allegedly responsible for severing a victim’s ear, running over a woman’s dog after she failed to get paid for her prostitution, along with other disturbing and graphic acts. Several human trafficking victims were identified in the report, including the man’s ex-wife.

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 began 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 was 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 they had arrested an additional 25 on similar charges. Officers posted online ads to target sex buyers 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 paid sex.

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, were able to make 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. One man was arrested for “receiving compensation for human trafficking”, after offering the services of a teenager for sex in Green Bay and using a computer to solicit child sex and intimate photos. Two of the men were arrested for attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl for sexual abuse, and another man for trying to buy sex with a juvenile male, both were charged with “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 were used to identify those who responded to the online ads placed by investigators. Police made contact with 409 individuals online, but they did not incriminate themselves enough to warrant charges. Those individuals were been sent written warnings by police. Those who responded and proceeded to set up a meeting with the decoy prostitutes and trafficking victims were arrested.

IT-Based Tactics

IT-based tactics have been incorporated into the multi-site demand reduction operations coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Since 2011, the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has been coordinating periodic reverse sting operations occurring simultaneously in multiple cities throughout the United States. The collaborative effort was initially called the “National Day of John Arrests,” and then in 2015 was renamed National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). The coalition of agencies that participate in these coordinated enforcement efforts grew from eight to more than 100. The 19 NJSI operations from 2011 through 2021 have involved the collaboration of over 140 law enforcement agencies, and have collectively produced the arrests of more than 10,000 sex buyers. Since August 2018, some of the NJSI operations have incorporated the use of decoy internet ads that connected to an AI bot, created by The bot interacts with sex buyers to the point where it sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Initially, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and eight other agencies utilized the bot, including the principle police departments and sheriff’s offices in Boston, MA; Des Moines, WA; McHenry County, IL; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Tarrant County, TX; and Upper Merion Township, PA. Across several subsequent NJSI operations, 18 cities and counties used the bots to combat demand.

The childsafe bot and other similar products can continuously scrape data or monitor “signal” from open source electronic communications, analyze the raw input, and flag messages as probably depicting a commercial sex offer or transaction. They also engage buyers in some form of interaction designed to deter individuals from attempting to purchase sex, at the present “point of purchase” moment as well as in the future. This approach seeks to disrupt (and ultimately collapse) commercial sex markets by reducing demand.

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 268740
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