Mecosta 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

Mecosta County has approximately 40,000 residents and is located in western Michigan, approximately 60 miles north of Grand Rapids. The county seat is Big Rapids. Prostitution and child sexual exploitation have been well-documented in the county, leading to community complaints. For example, in August 2016, a Big Rapids landlord was accused of offering reduced rent to a would-be tenant if she performed sexual favors. The woman filed a complaint with Big Rapids Public Safety officers, and a pre-trial conference was scheduled in Mecosta County District Court. The man was charged with prostitution – accosting and soliciting, a misdemeanor.

Tactics used to address the problems associated with the local commercial sex trade include those focused on consumer-level demand. The Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office has led web-based reverse stings to combat child sex trafficking. In September 2021, it was announced during a multi-agency news conference that three men had been arrested in a sex trafficking sting in Mecosta County in August. Police announced six total arrests, three from another sting in Newaygo County. Both operations were to identify people seeking to exploit young children sexually. The Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office received training before the sting from the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST), which had successfully conducted these operations. All three men arrested traveled to Mecosta County to sexually abuse a 14- or 15-year-old girl. They were each charged with accosting children for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime. One man was also charged with the delivery of marijuana. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were released to the public.

In December 2021, three men were arrested in a similar child sex trafficking sting conducted in collaboration with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, FBI personnel, 6th District MSP Intelligence Analyst, and the Central Michigan Enforcement Team. While three men were arrested, law enforcement said they received hundreds of other responses during the investigation. The men’s charges included accosting a minor for immoral purposes, using a computer to commit a felony, resisting/obstructing/assaulting police, and felony firearms charges. Their identities were disclosed to the public.

Key Partners

State Michigan
Type County
Population 39714
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