Marquette County, 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

Marquette County is a county of approximately 66,000 residents, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the shore of Lake Superior. Its county seat is Marquette. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the county, including instances of drugs being traded for sex. There has also been an incident in which a sex buyer was arrested on charges of aggravated stalking of a minor and assault with a dangerous weapon, as well as separate charges of prostitution/pandering and aggravated indecent exposure. The problems associated with the local commercial sex market led to the formation of the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force to combat and prevent human trafficking.

Opportunistic arrests of sex buyers have occurred in the county. For example, in December 2016, a pharmacist was arrested after stealing thousands of dollars worth of painkiller medications to pay a woman for sex. An investigation revealed he stole between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of drugs and an audit of the pharmacy’s inventory found over 15,000 pills missing. The man was charged with seven counts of manufacturing or delivering Schedule I and II narcotics and one count of retail theft. His identity was released to the press.

Web-based reverse stings have also been used to combat demand in the county. In February 2020, a man was arrested in connection with an investigation involving solicitation of prostitution in exchange for crystal meth. Detectives from the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) said the man responded to a social media posting saying he was interested in selling crystal meth in exchange for sex, after which a meeting was arranged in Marquette, where the man was arrested. The man was charged with possession with intent to deliver – crystal methamphetamine, using a computer to commit a felony, and solicitation to commit prostitution. He also had a criminal bench warrant held by the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office for failure to report to jail or pay fines on a previous charge of operating while impaired. His name, age, and hometown were released to the press.

In March 2021, the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office announced the completion of a sting operation to combat child sex trafficking. The joint undercover operation involved the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, Marquette Police Department, Michigan State Police, UPSET, and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. The Genesee County Sheriff gave upper Michigan law enforcement the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team the “GHOST playbook” upon request to help plan the operation. “Operation Northern Exposure” resulted in the arrest of five men between the ages of 32 and 64 who intended to sexually abuse an underage girl. They had daughters between the ages of 12 and 15. Each man was charged with child sexually abusive activity, use of a computer to commit child sexual abuse activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes, and use of a computer to commit accosting a child for immoral purposes. Their names and other identifying information were released to the press.

Key Partners

  • Marquette County Sheriff’s Office
  • Marquette Police Department
  • Michigan State Police
  • Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET)
  • Genesee County Sheriff’s Office
  • Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST)
  • Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Operation Underground Railroad (OUR)
  • Iron River Police Department
  • Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Michigan
Type County
Population 66017
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