Winnebago County, WI

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

Winnebago County, Wisconsin has a population of about 171,000.  The county seat is Oshkosh, which has roughly 67,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been reported in the county since at least the 1970s, if not earlier. Among their efforts to reduce commercial sex and trafficking have been the use of tactics addressing demand.  The Oshkosh Police Department has conducted reverse stings since the 1980s. In 1989 and 1992, OPD female undercover officers posed as decoys in and around an Oshkosh hotel. In both instances, several sex buyers were arrested after offering a decoy money in exchange for sex acts. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the vehicles of the men arrested had also been seized following both stings. It is unclear if the offenders’ identities were publicized in press at the time of their arrests.

In 2013 a reverse sting operation that targeted internet child sex predators led to the arrests of 16 men in six Wisconsin counties: Eight were arrested in Brown County, four in Marathon County, and an undisclosed number of others in Winnebago, Shawano, Outagamie and Door counties. Police had between 1,200 and 1,500 chats with possible suspects during the investigation that ran four days. Officials targeted online ad services as well as social media and other Internet outlets. The arrested men had faced charges including use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime to child enticement, prostitution, and possession of a controlled substance.

More recent operations include a reverse sting in December of 2017, yielding the arrest of three men from Winneconne, Kaukauna and Appleton Wisconsin. Charges were referred to the Winnebago County District Attorney’s Office, and one of the men was also charged with drug possession. The Oshkosh Police Department said that they actively investigate crimes related to prostitution, and the tactics they employ include “measures to reduce the demand.”

In 2018, eight men were arrested during a reverse sting in Oshkosh. The suspects arrested were from Neenah, Fond du Lac, Appleton, Sheboygan, Eldorado, Omro and Oshkosh. Six men were referred to the Winnebago County District Attorney’s Office for the charge of Prostitution, and one  was transported to the Winnebago County jail on prostitution and drug charges.

Key Partners

  • Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office
  • Oshkosh Police Department
  • U.S. Marshals
  • Wisconsin State Patrol

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, Auto Seizure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Man Charged with Assault Accuses Victim of Prostitution,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 21 1997.
State Wisconsin
Type County
Population 170924
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