La Crosse, 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

La Crosse is a city of approximately 52,000 residents in western Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border and about midway between Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Prostitution has been a documented problem in this city since the mid 1800s.  For example, between 1951 and 1956, there was a federal campaign against organized interstate prostitution – much of which would now be called sex trafficking – in the upper Midwest of the United States. A series of investigations and enforcement operations revealed a prostitution and sex trafficking network centered in a bar in Minneapolis, MN, and spanning numerous cities in several states, including Chicago, IL; Sioux Falls, SD; Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Superior, WI.  In December 1951 the FBI announced a campaign against organized interstate prostitution in the Upper Midwest, and when George MacKinnon took over as US Attorney for Minnesota in 1953, he targeted a prostitution enterprise that stretched from Chicago to Sioux Falls and beyond, with a nexus at a Northeast Minneapolis saloon called John’s Bar and Funhouse. By the end of the campaign in mid-1956, John’s Bar had lost its license, and 110 men and women had been convicted of violating the Mann Act.  More contemporary cases of prostitution have been reported in the community since the late 1970s, and in more recent years, numerous cases of child and adult sex trafficking.

To address these longstanding problems, responses of the La Crosse Police Department have included reverse sting operations and other arrests in an effort to combat demand for commercial sex that drives both prostitution and sex trafficking.  For example, in August 2012, La Crosse police posted a decoy internet ad and placed an undercover team in a hotel.  Over a three and one-half hour period, five men who offered to pay for sex with a police decoy were arrested.  The names and ages of the men were released to the media. In October 2012, one of the five johns who pleaded guilty was fined $505.  A month later,  another of the five arrestees was offered an opportunity to have his case he complied with a diversion agreement.  The man pleaded guilty at La Crosse County Circuit Court to misdemeanor prostitution, but the charge would be dismissed in one year if he paid a fine, completed 25 hours of community service, wrote an essay about what he learned, and avoided arrest. In November 2012, media outlets reported that two of the men arrested during the sting had been offered diversion agreements that included mandatory individual and group treatment therapy (via the Appleton John School). If the men were to violate the terms of their diversion agreements, they may face up to nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 dollar fine.

In September, 2020 a 47-year-old La Crosse man was arrested and faced multiple charges after allegedly picking up two 14-year-old girls and paying them for sex. He was charged in La Crosse County Circuit with two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of child enticement and two counts of soliciting a child for prostitution. According to the criminal complaint, police were called to a healthcare provider where a 14-year-old girl said she and another 14-year-old girl were picked up by the suspect at a La Crosse gas station and driven back to his residence, where he paid both $50 for sex. She said the two met the man on a MeetMe app and arranged to meet near the roundabout at 7th Street and Cass. She said the girls both were sexually abused by the man before he drove them back to the gas station.  Police later interviewed the second girl, who provided the same details.

In May, 2021, a member of a county police oversight board and former school board member claimed that the information about his ticket for soliciting a prostituted woman was leaked by local police as part of a smear campaign. The man had been ticketed earlier for paying for sex in the prior January. The report claims the man used a website called “Skip the Games” to meet the woman. Surveillance cameras showed the man depositing money from an ATM on Mormon Coulee Road. The police report states that the man and woman then drove to a dead-end street and had sex, where the man then paid the woman $100. The man was also identified by the phone number used to contact the woman, which was listed publicly on his school board profile, and by his license plate. Shortly after the citation was issued May 10, 2021, Turner resigned from the council, which oversees all parts of La Crosse County’s criminal justice system. In March, 2022 the the former member of the La Crosse County Criminal Justice Management Council was found guilty of “soliciting a prostitute” by the La Crosse Municipal Court, after pleading no contest to the citation in February, 2022. The plea means the man did not admit guilt; however, there was enough evidence to take it to trial. He was fined $124.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrests:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Loss of Employment:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

John School and Community Service:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 52185
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