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Mid-Michigan sheriffs collaborate on child trafficking sting

Brett Dahlberg
Mid-Michigan law enforcement officers describe a sting operation that they say nabbed three people trying to have sexual contact with a minor on Tuesday.

Sheriff departments in mid-Michigan have arrested six men who tried to engage in child sex trafficking, officers said Wednesday.

Three of the men were arrested in a sting operation in Fremont, Newaygo County, on Tuesday night, said Newaygo County Sheriff Bob Mendham.

Officers said they posed as a 14- or 15-year old girl and invited men to a home in Fremont.

Mendham said at first he was skeptical that the plan would work. He initially thought sex trafficking was a big-city problem. He hoped “that it really doesn’t exist [in rural areas] -- that we would tell people we’re doing this in Fremont, Michigan, Newaygo County, and there wouldn’t be a soul in our area that would have anything to do with such a thing.”

But he said the sting was even more successful than he’d expected.

“I hoped that we would at least get a predator or two off the street, and we did. We got three.”

Mendham said he hopes the ease with which officers lured men into their sting prompts parents to keep a closer eye on their children’s online communications.

“I want parents to know that maybe it’s not their child who is the one struggling or in danger, but I bet they’ve got a friend that may be,” he said. “Pay attention to those kids. Reach out to them if they’re struggling. Just communicate with them.”

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.