La Crosse, WI

Tactics Used

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

La Crosse is a city of approximately 50,000 residents in western Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border and about midway between Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Cases of prostitution and child sex trafficking have been reported in the community since the late 1970s; in recent years, those working with jail populations and victim service centers have identified many more women and girls who have been trafficked locally.

In response to these issues, the La Crosse Police Department has conducted at least one reverse sting operation in an effort to combat demand for commercial sex that drives both prostitution and sex trafficking.  In August 2012, La Crosse police posted a decoy internet ad and placed an undercover team in a hotel.  Over a three and one-half hour period, five men who offered to pay for sex with a police decoy were arrested.  The names and ages of the men were released to the media.

In October 2012, one of the five johns who pleaded guilty was fined $505.  A month later,  another of the five arrestees was offered an opportunity to have his case he complied with a diversion agreement.  The man pleaded guilty at La Crosse County Circuit Court to misdemeanor prostitution, but the charge would be dismissed in one year if he paid a fine, completed 25 hours of community service, wrote an essay about what he learned, and avoided arrest. In November 2012, media outlets reported that two of the men arrested during the sting had been offered diversion agreements that included mandatory individual and group treatment therapy (via the Appleton John School). If the men were to violate the terms of their diversion agreements, they may face up to nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 dollar fine.

Key Partners

Key Sources

State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 52109
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