Manitowoc, 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, Wisconsin is a city in and the county seat of Manitowoc County and has a population of about 35,000. Local law enforcement and residents have reported problems related to prostitution in the area for decades. For example, in November 2018, a 43-year-old Manitowoc woman was arrested during a prostitution sting. Police stated that she agreed to have sex in exchange for $150 with undercover officers working an operation targeting prostitution and human trafficking in Manitowoc. Officers found her through a posting on a website known for prostitution/escorts, according to the police report. Court records showed the woman was indicted on charges of felony drug trafficking, felony possession of THC second or subsequent offense, and other drug-related offenses alongside the prostitution charges.

A wide range of additional crimes associated with the local sex trade have also been documented, including child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2014, a 17-year-old female trafficking victim was discovered during a routine traffic stop, and after being taken into protective custody, the girl reported she had been trafficked and forced to engage in sexual acts for money. 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.

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.

Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys. For example, in August 2020, police arrested a 21-year-old man on the suspicion that he was soliciting a child for prostitution and exposing a child to harmful materials. An investigation showed the man was having inappropriate chats with a 15-year-old girl on the multimedia messaging app Snapchat in which he offered the girl money for sex and nude photos of herself (thus, child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM). The report said the man also sent explicit photos to the girl. The man was held as an inmate at Manitowoc County Jail. In 2022 he was sentenced to two years of probation on two felony charges of exposing a child to harmful descriptions.

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.

In March, 2023, it was announced that a Manitowoc man was arrested and faced multiple charges after a child reported numerous acts of sexual assault. The victim, whose age was not given, contacted the Manitowoc Police Department. An investigation found that the man arrived at Red Arrow Park and picked up the girl, and brought her back to his home. He allegedly raped the victim with another person in the room. The police report indicated that the suspect and the other man had duct taped the victim’s hands behind her back. After it was over, the suspect allegedly gave the girl $50 and three grams of marijuana. The man raped the girl a second time at the park, at one point slamming her head into the passenger seat. After the second assault was over, he threatened to “do it again” if the victim told anyone. The suspect was arrested and charged with Lewd/Lascivious Acts of Sex, Gratification in the Presence of Others, and two counts each of Sexual Assault of a Child, Trafficking a Child, and Strangulation.

Key Partners

  • Manitowoc Police Department
  • Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

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

Local Ordinances:

State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 34626
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