Grand Traverse County, MI

Tactics Used

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

Grand Traverse County is a county of approximately 90,000 residents, located in northern coastal Michigan. Traverse City is the county seat and largest community. Cases of prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation have been documented locally.

Among the responses to these problems are police operations targeting demand for commercial sex, which drives all prostitution and sex trafficking markets. For example, in June 2016, officers with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office’s Traverse Narcotics Team conducted an undercover prostitution sting that resulted in the arrests of five attempted sex buyers and two sex sellers. Each of the johns arrested were reportedly “found” through social media posts and and intercepted at motels in undisclosed locations within the county. All of the arrestees’ names were publicized in press in the days following their arrest.

In operations occurring in April and June 2018, 35 men were arrested and charged after police said they attempted to solicit sex from undercover detectives. Two detectives had posed as prostitutes to meet men at a Traverse City hotel on both days of the operations. Police personnel posted fake female escort advertisements on several websites, garnering more than 60 responses through text messages.  The ads promoted two fictitious women who would be in the region in April and June, with listed instructions asking those interested to text a phone number to set up an appointment. The ads prompted the defendants to travel to the hotel rooms. Most of the defendants told the undercover officers what services they were looking for and produced cash, reports state. Others began to take their clothes off before authorities waiting outside the room arrested them. None of the defendants served jail time.  Some charged in Grand Traverse County tried to fight the charges, but all ultimately accepted plea deals that led to probation terms and light sentences, according to 86th District Court records.

Key Partners

  • Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office
    • Traverse Narcotics Team
  • Eighty-sixth District Court

Key Sources

State Michigan
Type County
Population 89986
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