15 locals arrested in child sex trafficking sting

Photo: FBI
Photo: FBI

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – Local law enforcement arrested 15 people in three days during a nationwide crackdown on child sex trafficking.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office said during a news conference Tuesday morning that the number of arrests in a short period of time shows that there is a “significant” issue in our area.

“Having 15 arrests in three days is significant. You would expect to maybe only have a couple. we did not work around the clock,” Lt. Jim Valley, Brown County Sheriff’s Office, said.

As Action 2 News has reported, three suspects arrested during the Operation Cross Country X sting have gone before a Brown County judge on charges including Trafficking and Child Enticement. Each suspect is accused of trying to meet an underage victim for sex.

Two of the suspects were taken into custody for warrants and unrelated charges and received municipal citations for patronizing a prostitute. Ten of the suspects were released and received citations related to patronizing a prostitute.

“There is significant sex trafficking occurring in Brown County and we will continue to work together to eliminate this trade which profits from preying upon young at risk members of the community,” said Chief Deputy Todd Delain, Brown County Sheriff’s Office. “These crimes not only affect our children but also our community as a whole.”

The FBI says a total of 239 accused child sex traffickers taken into custody during Operation Cross Country X, an investigation conducted across the United States from Oct. 13-16.

During the nationwide sting, 82 children were rescued from situations of child sex trafficking. The youngest victim rescued in the United States is 13 years old.

Instead of treating those in prostitution like criminals, like they have in the past, law enforcement says it’s treating them as victims.

Local law enforcement has been working with Eye Heart World, an organization dedicated to helping the victims of sex trafficking. Two victims of the local stings–an adult prostitute and a juvenile prostitute–are getting help and resources through Eye Heart World. The non-profit organization has provided help to 26 victims involved in Brown County sex trafficking cases since it started last November — all from Wisconsin, most from Brown County.

“Law enforcement in this county view these ladies as victims and view them as people worthy of help,” Dawn Spang of Eye Heart World said.

“It’s very important that we have groups that will help them steer them to resources that they really need,” Delain said.

The FBI says busts took place at hotels, truck stops, street corners and other areas “frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and their customers.” Cross Country X is the largest sting in the history of the operation.

Law enforcement in Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines, and Thailand also held operations.

During the Philippines sting, law enforcement rescued a 2-year-old girl, and two boys ages five and 11. Five people were arrested for operating an internet live stream in which people pay to watch children being sexually abused.

“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director James Comey.

Law enforcers say by cutting down on the number of sex trafficking crimes, they’re cutting down on a number of other crimes. “The drug trade, just robberies, other violence often times associated with it,” Delain said.

Locally, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Green Bay Police Department, Ashwaubenon Public Safety, De Pere Police Department and FBI-Milwaukee took part in Operation Cross Country X.