Kalamazoo, MI

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

Kalamazoo is a city of approximately 76,000 residents, located in southwestern Michigan. Like their neighbors in nearby Battle Creek, Kalamazoo residents have reported an increase in commercial sex activity in recent years. A number of serious crimes and other problems are associated with the local commercial sex market.  For example, child sex trafficking and the production of trafficking-related child sexual abuse materials (referred to as “child pornography” in most state laws) have been documented in the city, as have cases of prostituted women being murdered. For example, in October, 2018, a man was sentenced to life in prison in federal court for sexually exploiting three teenagers. The jury found the offender guilty of producing “child pornography” involving three teenage girls, forcing one of the girls to engage in prostitution, felonious possession of firearms and conspiring to distribute cocaine. the man had been arrested after the Battle Creek police officers responded to a report that he had a 16-year-old girl held against her will at his home. When police arrived, the suspect denied having any girls in the house, but officers found the girl in his unlit basement. The girl told police the man had forced her into the basement to avoid police detection. The girl said she met him when he invited her to a party two weeks prior where he gave her cocaine and demanded sex as payment. She said the man continued providing cocaine and demanding sex in the weeks that followed, sometimes recording the acts on video. Battle Creek police and Department of Homeland Security Investigations found approximately 30 videos of the offender engaging in sex acts with the 16-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old girl on his Snapchat account and iPhone. Search warrants also revealed videos of the man with cocaine and guns.

Among their efforts to address such issues, the Kalamazoo Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 2007. During one such operation in 2007, six sex buyers were arrested during a two-day investigation that also resulted in the seizure of two of the sex buyers’ vehicles.  The KPD reported that they frequently respond to – and are informed by – residents’ tips and complaints of prostitution activity. To facilitate collaboration with residents, the city had set up a phone line dedicated to reporting criminal activity, including prostitution and sex trafficking.

In 2016 police officials from Kalamazoo and Portage teamed up to place an advertisement soliciting sex on a website commonly used for prostitution. The Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team, a joint operation of police officers from the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage created to run drug investigations, then used an informant to agree to pose as a prostituted person for the sting operation. In March, 2016, a Western Michigan University student answered the decoy advertisement. When he paid the informant $100, police were listening from an adjoining hotel room and through the door. The student was not arrested but admitted to paying for sex. The WMU student was never charged with a committing a crime, but police seized his cellphone and $100 and kept it through a process known as civil asset forfeiture.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in Kalamazoo.  For example, in March, 2015 a local news station uncovered a prostitution scandal involving a former Kalamazoo Public Safety officer. Once the allegations were brought to light, the KDPS conducted an investigation and fired the  police officer. According to State Police, in September of 2014, Battle Creek Police picked up a woman for heroin offenses. She told police she was in prostitution and used BackPage.com to advertise, and that one of her clients was a Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer. That officer was identified by KDPS and is identity was included in news reports. The report from the Michigan State Police said the officer met with the prostituted woman three times: once at a motel in Kalamazoo, and other times in Battle Creek. The report said the man denied being a police officer, and paid the woman $100 for sex. The fired officer later filed a grievance about his termination, and the matter was considered in an arbitration process.

In April, 2022, a Western Michigan University police officer was arrested in an undercover sting for trying to pay a child for sexual abuse in a gas station parking lot, in the back of his pickup truck. The officer and several other child predators were arrested as part of a sting operation run by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office placed ads online offering sex trafficked children for money. The officer responded to the ads, apparently ready and willing to engage in child sex trafficking. According to the probable cause affidavit, the child predators thought they were meeting a 15-year-old girl for sexual abuse. In text messages, the officer said multiple times he planned to have sex with the girl, and also asked to videotape the intercourse for later viewing. While the offender waited for his victim to enter, the door opened and he was met by was deputies instead. The man had a handgun and $1,582 on him when deputies found him waiting in the back of his truck. The public safety officer resigned before going through the termination process at the university, which learned of the arrest and quickly suspended him without pa and barred him from the campus.

In January, 2023, a former Kalamazoo pastor was sentenced in a sex crimes case where he allegedly paid teenage boys to engage in sex acts with his wife at his home. The man was sentenced to 12 months in Kalamazoo County Jail on one felony count of facilitation of travel services for purposes of prostitution. The man’s identity was publicly disclosed, and he was removed from his position as a paster as a consequence of his arrest and prosecution for buying sex.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation Related Crime in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Michigan
Type City
Population 76106
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