Genesee County, MI

Tactics Used

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

Genesee County is located in eastern Michigan, and has a population of approximately 400,000.  The county seat and population center is the city of Flint.  Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-established problems in Flint and surrounding ares of the county, generating resident and business complaints to law enforcement agencies and including sex trafficking of children and people with special needs. For example, in 2019, three people were arrested and charged after officials alleged they had forced two women and one man into prostitution at gun point in order to repay their drug debt.  The numerous charges after authorities say the victims were allegedly forced to perform sexual acts against their will in order to repay a drug debt they owed to Scott. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office had been tipped off to the situation by a confidential informant who said the victims were being marketed as prostitutes on a website.  One of the defendants had assaulted at least one of the victims extensively.  Authorities executing search warrants at  homes on in Burton and Flint believed to be connected to the incident and discovered an AR-15 rifle, crack cocaine, marijuana, used hypodermic needles, drug paraphernalia, pornography and condoms from the Burton home.  They also found a 6-month-old child who was turned over to child protective services, and they seized a computer allegedly used to post the victims on Backpage.com. The traffickers allegedly charged the victims $20 per day to utilize a bedroom in the home for sex acts. Defendants were arraigned on numerous charges including human trafficking, prostitution, unlawful imprisonment, using a computer to commit a crime, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, felon in possession of a firearm,  assault, possession of heroin and possession of cocaine, allowing a child to live in a house of prostitution, fourth-degree child abuse, and reckless use of a weapon.  In 2020, six missing children were recovered by the Genesee County Sheriff’s office, including a 16 year old person with special need who was locked in a barn surrounded by barbed wire, where numerous men paid to sexually abuse her.

Among the responses to the many crimes and community disorder problems generated by the prostitution market are those targeting consumer level demand for commercial sex. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office has conducted street level reverse stings since 2000 and web based stings since 2010. There have been years where street level reverse stings have been conducted once per week during the summer months. There have also been public education/awareness campaigns, neighborhood watch programs, and community service programs in place as well as a vehicle seizure program for sex buyers using a vehicle during the time of arrest.  Arrested sex buyers are identified in local news sources, pay heavy fines to recover their seized autos, and may have other sanctions imposed by judges.
Since 2018 the county has had the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (or GHOST) designed to respond to and deter sex trafficking and prostitution.  Between 2018 and April, 2021, over 100 suspects had been arrested.  In an operation in April 2021 a sheriff’s deputy was among those caught in a sex-trafficking sting by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office GHOST.  The Deputy was arrested and fired from his position after he allegedly exchanged messages with an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old girl online, according to the Genesee County Sheriff.  The man had allegedly sent 446 messages to the undercover officer he believed was a 15-year-old, 118 messages and six pictures of which he sent while on duty.  When the suspect was asked to meet the decoy, he didn’t show up, but he allegedly did send “graphic pictures” and “almost demand” the decoy to send pictures of them self in return.  The man was arrested and arraigned on charges of child sexually abusive activity, computer internet communications with another to commit a crime, children accosting for immoral purposes and common law offenses for misconduct in office.

Key Partners

  • Genesee County Sheriff’s Office
  • Genesee County Human Trafficking Task Force
    • Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team
  • Flint Police Department

Key Sources

National Assessment survey and interview with Genessee County Sheriff’s Office

Street-level reverse stings:

Web-based reverse stings:

Vehicle seizure:

Background on prostitution and sex trafficking in the area:

State Michigan
Type County
Population 405803
Location
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