Dane 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

Dane County, Wisconsin has a population of approximately 564,000 and its county seat is Madison, which is also the state capital. Prostitution activity has been well-documented within the county, 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 are sex trafficking and prostitution related violence.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. Seeing no benefit from decades of attacking prostitution problems by focusing solely on the providers, in 1983 police began addressing the demand side of the market by conducting reverse stings. Through the present, various agencies and organizations in Madison and within the county have targeted the demand for commercial sex in their efforts to reduce the prevalence and impact of prostitution and sex trafficking in the city. A number of tactics have been used, including public education/awareness efforts, reverse stings, identity disclosure, sending “dear john” messages letters to the homes of alleged sex buyers, and a john school program for men arrested for buying sex. Much of the police attention to prostitution is driven by community member complaints.

In September 2017, the Wisconsin’s Attorney General announced the arrest of 25 males in sex trafficking operations conducted across the state. The web-based reverse stings were focused in northern and eastern Wisconsin, and operations focused on people seeking children for paid sex and who solicit prostituted adults. Some of the sex buyers arrested were seeking to sexually abuse 14-and 15-year-old children.  Charges include soliciting a prostitute, pandering, soliciting a child for prostitution, attempted second degree sexual assault of a child, child enticement, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, exposing a child to harmful material, and exposing a child to harmful narrations. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office was one of the agencies collaborating in these operations. The Wisconsin reverse sting were part of the National Johns Suppression Initiative. In a news release announcing the results of the operations, the Attorney General said:

“The only reason human trafficking exists is because there is a demand for buying sex. Those creating the demand – the johns who buy victims and the pimps who are exploiting them – are not safe to exploit and coerce people in our state. When I was sworn in as attorney general, I put johns on notice. We are coming for you, and for some – we already got you. DOJ’s Human Trafficking Bureau’s arrests this summer will not be the last.”

Key Partners

  • Dane County Sheriff’s Office
  • Eagle River Police Department
  • Juneau County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kohler Police Department
  • McFarland Police Department
  • Monona Police Department
  • Rock County District Attorney
  • Sheboygan County District Attorney
  • Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Sheboygan Falls Police Department
  • Sturgeon Bay Police Department

Key Sources

Web Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:


Public Education:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Man Pleads No Contest to Rape, Beating Charges,” Madison Capital Times, August 21 1989.
  • “Prostitution Suspect Rams Officer with Car,” Madison Capital Times, June 26 1992.
  • “Officers Hurt in Prostitution Arrests,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 27 1992.
  • “Man Who Fled Police Gets New Trial,” Madison Capital Times, January 13 1995.
  • “Trial in Rape Case Begins, Man Also Accused of Beating Woman,” Madison Capital Times, October 31 2001.
  • “Rape/Beating Trial Produces Starkly Differing Accounts,” Madison Capital Times, November 1 2001.
  • “Close Encounter Ends in Road Rage, Alleged Hooker Fled with Cash,” Madison Capital Times, August 2 2007.
  • “Man Accused of Badger Rd. Rape, Could Get Life Sentence,” Madison Capital Times, August 21 2007.
  • “Prostitutes and Johns Are on Cops’ Radar, Explosion of Illegal Activity along One Section of Badger Road Prompts a Sting Operation,” Wisconsin State Journal, December 2 2007.
State Wisconsin
Type County
Population 563951
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