Superior is a city of approximately 27,000 residents, located along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin’s Douglas County. Situated across the bay from Duluth, Minnesota, the cities comprise the Twin Ports metropolitan area. Prostitution has been documented in Superior and Duluth dating back to the early 1900s. In contemporary times, commercial sex and sex trafficking activity have posed many problems. Among the efforts to address these problems is the recent addition of attempts to combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex.
In December 2013, the Superior Police Department announced that they had completed a six-week investigation into prostitution in the area, with the assistance of the Duluth Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force. Although the operation initially targeted prostituted women offering commercial sex online, officers soon shifted gears and conducted a “spinoff operation” targeting johns. Media outlets reported that the sting was the first of its kind in the city.
During the operation, “investigators created and posted [an advertisement] on Backpage.com offering pay-for-sex services.” Over a three-day span in late November 2013, officers arrested seven men who “responded to the ad and showed up with payment and condoms.” The men were charged with solicitation and/or patronizing a prostitute. Their names were not released. When asked about the operation, a representative from the Superior Police Department stated that officers were compelled to act because “people engaged in the act of prostitution are not doing it because they want to, but because it’s some sort of force situation, whether they have what we would call a pimp that’s controlling them, for some reason something whether its financial or for sustenance like food or shelter or maybe their physically being harmed.”
In the months that followed, it was announced that at least three of the men arrested had been “offered deferred judgment of conviction agreements. Under the agreement, they were ordered to attend a $750 john school course offered through a St. Paul-based organization called Breaking Free. The restorative justice course addresses the underlying attitudes and assumptions that encourage offenders to participate in prostitution, according to the organization’s website. If they completed the course, paid $250 in fines and abided by the agreement for a year, the District Attorney’s Office would move to amend the charges to county ordinance disorderly conduct with no further penalties.”
In August 2014, Superior and Duluth detectives again collaborated to conduct a web-based reversal, this time resulting in the arrest of seven johns. Each of the men was arrested after responding to an online listing advertising prostitution and arranging to meet an undercover female officer at a Superior hotel. While six of the johns were charged with prostitution, one of the men was also accused of child enticement. Unlike in prior investigations, all arrestees’ names and other identifying information were publicized in local media outlets.
- John School:
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “10 Arrested in Twin Ports Prostitution Sting”, ABC/WDIO-TV 10, December 11 2013.
- “Ten Nabbed in Superior Prostitution Bust”, NBC/KBJR-TV 11, December 11 2013.
- “Eight Men, Two Women Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Superior Telegram, December 12 2013.
- “Twin Ports Human Trafficking Arrests”, KDAL-AM 610, December 12 2013.
- “Two Face Charges after Soliciting Prostitutes”, Superior Telegram, January 20 2014.
- “Two More Face Charges after November Prostitution Sting”, Superior Telegram, February 14 2014.
- “Duluth Man, 61, Charged in Prostitution Sting”, Superior Telegram, February 18 2014.
- “Last Man Charged after Prostitution Sting”, Superior Telegram, March 7 2014.
- “Wrenshall Man Fined after Undercover Sting”, Superior Telegram, March 14 2014.
- “Six Charged in Human Trafficking-Related Sting”, Superior Telegram, August 26 2014.
- “Superior Police Arrest Six in Undercover Sex Trafficking Operation”, KDAL-AM 610, August 26 2014.
- “Undercover Operation Nets Six Arrests for Prostitution, Child Enticement”, NBC/KBJR-TV 11, August 26 2014.
- “6 Arrests in Northland Human Trafficking Sting”, ABC/KAAL-TV 6, August 27 2014.
- “6 Arrests Made in Northwestern Wisconsin Human Trafficking Sting”, ABC/WQOW-TV 18, August 27 2014.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “White Slavery Trial Ordered”, Milwaukee Sentinel, February 2 1960.
- “Slavery Case Goes to Jurors”, Milwaukee Sentinel, January 12 1962.
- “Superior, Duluth Seek Way to Stop Teenage Sex on Ships”, Milwaukee Journal, March 15 1980.
- “Native American Coalitions Discuss Twin Ports Sex Trafficking”, Northland’s NewsCenter, September 19 2013.
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: