Manitowoc County, 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

Manitowoc County is a county of approximately 81,400 residents, located in eastern Wisconsin. Manitowoc is a city in and the county seat of Manitowoc County and has a population of about 35,000. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the county. This activity, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking, more specifically child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2014, a 17-year-old female trafficking victim was discovered during a routine traffic stop in nearby Sheboygan County. After being taken into protective custody, the girl reported she had been trafficked and forced to engage in sexual acts for money in the Manitowoc County town of Schleswig. Using this information, officers with the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) then arrested the victim’s adult trafficker as well as the sex buyer responsible for assaulting her. Both of the men’s names and arrest photos were released to the public.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. In the city of Manitowoc, sex buyers are often arrested using reverse stings. For example, in September 2022, the Manitowoc Police Department arrested a man during a sting for “soliciting a prostitute.” Detectives began the undercover investigation on a website known for prostitution. Once they had made contact with the man, he agreed to pay who he believed was a prostituted woman $120 for sex. The detectives and the suspect agreed to meet at a location in Manitowoc. When the man showed up at the arranged time and place, he was quickly arrested and found to be in possession of the $120 and numerous condoms. The 65-year-old man admitted to soliciting prostitutes in the past, and that he was previously arrested for doing so. He is facing a single charge of “Soliciting Prostitutes.” In April 2010, MCSO officers conducted a small-scale web sting targeting male sex buyers. Law enforcement reviewed adult classifieds on Craigslist and identified an individual attempting to purchase sex. Officers then posed as a decoy prostituted woman and arranged to meet the man in the town of Cleveland. Once he arrived at the specified location, the sex buyer was promptly arrested. His name and arrest photo were released to the public.

In March 2022, a Manitowoc man was indicted for attempting to pay a child for sexual abuse. The man was found guilty due to a no-contest plea on two charges of Attempting to Expose a Child to Harmful Descriptions and was sentenced to spend two years on probation. According to police reports, the offender had contacted the victim, who was 16 at the time, on Snapchat the prior year. Many of the messages that he sent were sexual in nature, and in one message, he offers the teen money for nude pictures (thus constituting child sexual abuse images or CSAM) and $50 if the child had sex with him. He also sent nude pictures of himself to the teen. The man was required to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, would not be allowed to use any internet-enabled device, and will not be allowed to have contact with anyone under the age of 18.

Key Partners

  • Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Investigations Resulting in Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, and Prostitution in the Area:

State Wisconsin
Type County
Population 81359
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