De Pere, 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

De Pere is a city of approximately 25,000 residents, located in Brown County, Wisconsin.  It is a suburb of Green Bay, and prostitution and sex trafficking activity have 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. For example, in 2015, two women were arrested in a prostitution sting in De Pere, for prostitution occurring in a massage parlor brothel, with some of the customers identified as teenage boys. The person named on the lease was charged with keeping a house of prostitution, the women was charged with prostitution. Investigators learned that there were juveniles going into the business participating in sex acts, and teens as young as 16-years-old worked with police to provide information. A prior raid turned up thousands of dollars in cash, led to the arrests and closed the spa down.

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.

In October, 2017, the De Pere Police Department participated in Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide human trafficking operation coordinated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in collaborations with local and state agencies.  The Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Green Bay Police Department, De Pere Police Department, and Ashwaubenon Public Safety were among the Wisconsin agencies that took part in Operation Cross Country XI. Sixteen arrests happened in Brown County, for charges including Human Trafficking, Prostitution and drug offenses. In Wisconsin, officers posted online to target men who respond to ads for commercial sex.  After the online ad was posted by detectives, over 100 hits is not something unusual in one day.

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 National John Suppression Initiative (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

  • De Pere Police Department
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office
  • Brown County Drug Task Force
  • Wisconsin Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 25335
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