Merrill is a city of about 9,000 residents, and serves as county seat of Lincoln County, Wisconsin. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Lincoln County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking, child endangerment, and violence committed against people involved in these transactions.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. For example, in January, 2014, a 33-year-old Merrill man who was arrested during a prostitution sting reached a plea deal with prosecutors and could have the charged amended to disorderly conduct if he stays out of trouble. The man, a former University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point faculty member, was one of four people arrested during the sting. The other suspects in the case have reached similar deals. Police the investigation focused on individuals who respond to advertisements for escort services placed on websites such as “Backpage.com.”
In March 2018, police conducted an undercover operation seeking to apprehend those seeking to buy sex with children. One man thought he had paid a teenager’s aunt $100 for a key to a hotel room with a 15 girl. The “aunt” was an undercover agent, and the “girl” in online discussions that set up the encounter was also an undercover officer. The man was arrested, and his identity publicly disclosed. In April, 2019, the 68-year-old was sentenced by a Lincoln County judge to six months in jail and 10 years of probation. As part of his sentence, must also pay a $1,000 fine, and serve 250 hours of community service.
- Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming, Community Service:
- https://www.wjfw.com/storydetails/20190412204130/stevens_point_man_arrested_in_lincoln_co_online_sex_sting_gets_6_months_jail_time (2019)
Background on Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com/story/news/2015/11/23/sex-slavery-heart-wisconsin/74647466/ (2015)
- https://wsau.com/news/articles/2019/apr/03/merrill-man-arrested-in-online-sex-sting/ (2019)