Superior, WI

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

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 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.


Key Sources


State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 26862
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