Wausau is a city of approximately 39,000 residents, located in Marathon County in central Wisconsin. Despite its modest small size, the city has reports of prostitution arrests dating back to 1953, and has twice drawn national media attention (first in the late 1980s and again in the summer of 2011) for its association with domestic minor sex trafficking cases. In both instances, the city served as the operating base for a network of adults compelling underage females into prostitution. Prostitution investigations have also been reported in 2013 and 2014, and new sex trafficking cases emerged in 2014. For example, in January 2014, police investigated “escort services” advertised online, such as on Backpage.com, and made several arrests. Tips and complaints from residents to police have played a role in law enforcement operations. Cases of prostitution-related violence have also been documented in Wausau.
To reduce prostitution in the area, the Wausau Police Department collaborated with officers from the Marathon, Shawano, and Outagamie County Sheriff’s Departments, and police from nearby Shawano and Oshkosh to conduct Operation Black Veil II, an anti-prostitution investigation that “targeted online predators who solicit children for sexually explicit conduct by using online advertising in places like Craigslist.” As a result of the operation, Wausau Police arrested one john for “soliciting for an adult prostitute.” The WPD also arrested and charged two adults with “child enticement and [the] use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime,” but it does not appear that the men attempted to purchase commercial sex.
In March 2014, a web-based reverse sting led to the arrest of six sex buyers. The sting spanned eight hours, and involved undercover officers placing advertisements in some of the online prostitution arenas and waiting for people to contact them to try to buy sex. The WPD reported that 20 to 30 people contacted undercover officers and six traveled to the officers’ location and tried to buy sex, and were then arrested. The names and photos of the arrested buyers were released to news outlets.
In August 2014, WPD officers staged a second web-based reversal, netting 8 johns in the process. When asked by a member of the local media how the Department would respond to criticisms that such investigations are a “waste of taxpayer money because [prostitution] is a victimless crime,” a representative with the WPD stated:
“People that would say that have not had to deal with human trafficking, [and] have not had to see the young girls being pimped out who are prostituting themselves under the threat of duress, facing being physically injured if they don’t perform sex acts for money.”
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “16 Arrests in Online Sexual Predator Sting”, WOZZ-FM 94.7, September 23 2013.
- “Four Arrested in Wausau Prostitution Sting”, Marshfield News Herald, September 24 2013.
- “4 Expected to Be Charged Following Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WSAW-TV 7, January 24 2014.
- “Wausau Police Arrest 4, Including UWSP Lecturer, in ‘War on Prostitution”, Wausau Daily Herald, January 24 2014.
- “Six Arrested in Wausau Prostitution Sting”, Wausau Daily Herald, March 24 2014.
- “Authorities Release the Names of 6 Men Nabbed in Wausau Prostitution Sting”, Wausau Daily Herald, March 25 2014.
- “8 Cited in Latest Wausau Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WSAW-TV 7, August 3 2014.
- “Kronenwetter Police Officer Accused of Soliciting Prostitution”, Wausau Daily Herald, April 12 2014.
- “One Cited in in Prostitution Sting a Wausau School District Teacher”, CBS/WSAW-TV 7, August 4 2014.
- Background on Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Monroe Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Wausau Teen Prostitution Case”, St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 29 1991.
- “Police: Dad Traded Daughter for Meth; Daughter Says Abuse Started at Age 12”, St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 5 2007.
- “Sex Offender Released into Wausau Wednesday”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, March 2 2011.
- “Three Arrested for Child Prostitution Charges”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, March 17 2011.
- “Wausau: Three Charged in Prostitution Case”, St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 19 2011.
- “UPDATE: 5 Arrested for Child Prostitution Ring, Teens May Be Charged”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, March 28 2011.
- “4th Adult Charged in Child Prostitution Ring”, CBS/WSAW-TV 7, May 18 2011.
- “Two Women Ordered to Trial on Child Prostitution”, WTMJ-AM 620, June 14 2011.
- “19-Year-Old Pleads Not Guilty in Child Prostitution Case”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, June 27 2011.
- “More Felony Counts for Woman Accused of Child Prostitution Charges”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, August 4 2011.
- “Man Guilty in Prostitution Case”, Wausau Daily Herald, August 12 2011.
- “Milwaukee Man Gets 17 Years for Prostitution, Kidnapping”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, March 23 2012.
- “Milwaukee Man Sentenced in Wausau Kidnapping, Prostitution Case”, CBS/WSAW-TV 7, March 23 2012.
- “Wausau Man Sent to Prison in Prostitution Case”, ABC/WAOW-TV 9, April 8 2013.
- “Fourth Prostitution Suspect Convicted”, Wausau Daily Herald, June 29 2013.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area: