SPECIAL REPORT: Prostitution problems in central Wisconsin - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Prostitution problems in central Wisconsin

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -

Law enforcement in the Wausau area is facing a new problem, once limited to the streets of major cities: prostitution. 

Soliciting sex is a surprisingly booming business, with women now taking their search off the streets and onto the internet, according to the Wausau Police Department.

"Most of the prostitution issues we face is online so the girls are advertising online, men are meeting them," said Lt. Melinda Pauls with the Wausau Police Department. "We monitor online sites daily and it's amazing how many girls are advertising."

Advertisements are crawling on websites like backpage.com with friendly invitations for a sexual liaison. 

Wausau Police Officer Sarah D'Acquisto follows the women's advertisements and can even recognize local motels where they are posting picture.

"They are moving from one city to another," she said. "I couldn't even give you a number [of women prostituting in Wausau]. I have no idea." 

"It is such a big problem right now because of our drug problem," said Lt. Pauls. "Most of the girls that are prostituting are doing it because they have a drug addiction."  

The Wausau Police Department said that women are trafficked, have pimps, and their pimps use their addiction to keep them close. 

One man, who wanted to remain anonymous because he has a wife and kids, found himself in the middle of the illegal sex trade before moving out of Wausau. 

He said the women are smart and know how to stay under the radar to avoid law enforcement. 

"[The prostitutes] are really picky on who they hang out with a lot," he said. "Usually they stick with the same clients. [I] listened to some of them talk and I ask them 'why would you put your body through it'? They say they can't stop." 

Now, police are trying to put a dent in this booming business. 

"The biggest thing is to just keep up with it and making sure the victims out there know we are here to help," said Officer D'Acquisto. 

To help curb the problem, in 2014, the city passed an ordinance to allow escort services with a valid permit. 

Wausau Police said nobody in the city holds a license.

Citations are given for first time offenders. Anything after that is a felony.

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