Anaheim is a city of about 350,000 residents situated south of Los Angeles in Orange County, California. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-known problems in Anaheim and in surrounding communities. The city has developed a reputation as a place men can buy sex, and the city has been identified by police and social services as a stop on smaller circuits that include Garden Grove, Santa Ana, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Some areas of the city are well-known for prominent street prostitution, and the activity generates numerous complaints to police. Cases of targeted homicides of women selling sex have also been documented in Anaheim.
On several occasions, neighborhood groups have met with police specifically to discuss how best to combat prostitution. Among the strategies pursued have been those addressing demand. The Anaheim Police Department has conducted several reverse stings, the first known instance occurring in 1979. Some of the operations have been large-scale joint reverse stings (targeting male buyers) coupled with stings (targeting women selling sex) that span multiple days. One such effort in 1993 resulted in over 60 arrests in a five-day period.
While the APD has invested some effort to address demand over the years (particularly in the 1990s), the vast majority of their resources have been devoted to arresting prostituted women. Anaheim arrested nearly the same number of men and women for prostitution offenses in the 1990s, but since 2000 the balance has since shifted toward arresting mostly women. In 2010, more than 80 percent of prostitution arrests by the Anaheim Police Department were of women and girls.
Police and others in the community acknowledged that arresting prostituted women accomplished little, aside from showing community members who complained about prostitution they were doing “something.” They also acknowledged that targeting demand was a more promising strategy. However, they said they conduct fewer reverse stings because the operations are more labor-intensive, and they have fewer female officers that can serve as effective decoys. Police departments often exchange undercover investigators since the problems of becoming known as police officers to a local community of criminals is common to many offenses, not just prostitution (e.g., drug trafficking, auto theft and burglary rings), so a lack of female decoys is an easily surmountable challenge.
In September 2014, the Anaheim City Council announced it would begin posting the names of convicted sex buyers online. Although sex buyers arrested in greater Orange County were already subject to shaming through the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the identities of sex buyers arrested in Anaheim were not disclosed as the city is the only community in the county that prosecutes its own criminal misdemeanors (i.e., solicitors are not processed through the OCDA). As such, this announcement marked the first time sex buyers convicted in the city would be subject to shaming. According to media reports, “Anaheim officials said they do not plan to list the names of convicted prostitutes and pimps [on the website], citing a theory of supply and demand: if the shaming ordinance prevents johns from soliciting sex acts, then prostitutes will take their business elsewhere.”
In February 2020, the results from the statewide “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” were announced. The week-long operation was led by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and 70 participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies (including the Antioch Police Department) and task forces from across California. In addition to rescuing and serving victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking and arresting then prosecuting their captors, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild also sought to disrupt the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers. Investigators focused enforcement operations wherever the trafficking of human beings took place and included street-level and internet-based operations. The operation deployed specially trained cyber detectives who posed as vulnerable teenagers online. The detectives interacted with suspects on social media, traffickers and customers who sought to exploit and sexually abuse children. Operation Reclaim and Rebuild resulted in 266 male sex buyers arrested for the charge of Solicitation, as well as the recovery of 76 adult and 11 minor victims and the arrest of 27 suspected traffickers. In the press release announcing these results, the head of the Task Force said, “To the Johns: Purchasing commercial sex is illegal and buying sex adds to the exploitation of those involved.” Downloadable Material: Talking Points and Slides
- Anaheim Police Department
- Anaheim City Council
- West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Committee
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Web-Based Stings:
- “261 Arrested in Vice Crackdown on Harbor Blvd.”, Los Angeles Times, May 5 1979.
- “Anaheim, Stanton Increase Arrests of Prostitutes, Clients”, Los Angeles Times, November 20 1985.
- “Local News in Brief, Anaheim: Prostitution Sweep Leads to 156 Arrests”, Los Angeles Times, March 16 1988.
- “Local News in Brief, Anaheim: 65 Arrested on Drug, Prostitution Counts”, Los Angeles Times, November 2 1988.
- “Anaheim Prostitution Sweep Leads to 68 Arrests”, Los Angeles Times, March 16 1994.
- “Anaheim: 43 Arrested in 2-Day Prostitution Sweep”, Los Angeles Times, June 28 1994.
- “Anaheim: 63 Arrested in Vice, Narcotics Sweep”, Los Angeles Times, August 2 1994.
- “Anaheim Police Nab 71 in Prostitution Sting”, Los Angeles Times, May 10 1995.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 82 Arrests”, Los Angeles Times, July 12 1995.
- “Anaheim: Beach Blvd. Prostitution Sweep Nets 38 Arrests”, Los Angeles Times, November 25 1997.
- “Anaheim: 47 Held in Beach Blvd. Prostitution Sweep”, Los Angeles Times, March 25 1998.
- https://lasd.org/operation-reclaim-and-rebuild-2020/ (2020)
- “Anaheim Will Name Those Convicted of Soliciting Sex; City Council Votes for Online Shaming of Johns as a Way to Combat Prostitution along Beach Boulevard”, Orange County Register, September 23 2014.
- “Anaheim: Neighbors Band to Fight Area’s Crime”, Los Angeles Times, May 19 1993.
- “Group Takes Flashlight Walk Against Prostitution in Anaheim”, Los Angeles Times, February 23 2012.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Anaheim Man Ran Sex Ring, Girls Testify”, Los Angeles Times, October 7 1983.
- “Teenaged Witness May Be Held for Another Year”, Montreal Gazette, January 28 1984.
- “Parents Sold Girl, 13, for Sex, Police Say”, Los Angeles Times, August 13 1993.
- “Transportation for Prostitution Charged”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, August 19 1999.
- “Cops Break Up Forced Prostitution Ring”, Los Angeles Times, February 13 2004.
- “Florida Man Used Web Sites to Lure Girls into Prostitution”, CBS/KFMB-TV 8, April 25 2009.
- “Man Gets 17 1/2 Years for Sex Trafficking”, Orange County Register, June 10 2010.
- “Alleged Pimp Faces Life; Ontario Man Is Accused of Raping, Torturing Two”, San Jose Mercury-News, April 2 2011.
- “Men Charged with Forcing Woman into Prostitution to Pay Debts”, Los Angeles Times, June 5 2013.
- “‘Modern-Day Slave Owner’ Sentenced for Human Trafficking in O.C.”, Los Angeles Times, August 12 2013.
- “Orange County Targets Customers in Fight Against Human Trafficking”, Los Angeles Times, August 19 2013.
- “Who’s a Victim? More Law Enforcers Treating Homegrown Prostitution as Human Sex Trafficking”, Washington Post, September 2 2013.
- “Experts Increasingly Apply ‘Trafficking’ Label to Prostitution”, Champaign-Urbana News Gazette, September 22 2013.
- “Man Gets 5 Years for Making Teen Work as Prostitute in Anaheim”, Los Angeles Times, February 10 2014.
- “Pimp Sentenced for Trafficking 2 in Anaheim”, Orange County Register, March 7 2014.
- “Anaheim Men Get Prison for Human Trafficking, Pimping”, Orange County Register, June 10 2014.
- “San Diego Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Recruitment on Facebook of Minor for Prostitution,” Orange County Breeze, October 18 2014.
- “Contra Costa County Man Convicted of Exploiting Northern California Woman in Anaheim,” Orange County Breeze, May 9 2015.
- “NorCal Man Sentenced to 5 Years in Orange County Sex Trafficking,” Orange County Register, June 3 2015.
- “Anaheim Gang Member Sentenced for Human Trafficking,” Orange County Register, June 7 2015.
- “Two Arrested in Anaheim for Alleged Sex Trafficking of 15-Year-Old Girl,” FOX/KTTV-TV 11, February 11 2016.
- “Alleged Prostitute Pleads Not Guilty in Connection with Trafficking Case Involving Rape of 15-Year-Old,” Orange County Register, March 14 2016.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitution Arrests Up Near Disneyland”, Milwaukee Journal, December 18 1976.
- “Anaheim Cracks Down on Prostitution”, Los Angeles Times, October 17 1979.
- “City Steps Up Prostitution War”, Los Angeles Times, May 26 1982.
- “Harvard Blvd. Now Part of Prostitutes’ National Map”, Los Angeles Times, February 12 1989.
- “A Beach Cleanup: Anaheim Targets Prostitution at Motels Along the Boulevard”, Los Angeles Times, July 30 1995.
- “Anaheim: City Seeks to Have Motel Closed for Year”, Los Angeles Times, December 12 1995.
- “Police Suspect Increase in Prostitution Rings, Crime; Anaheim, Westminster Raids Find Illegal Immigrants Smuggled Across Border to Work in Brothels”, Los Angeles Times, September 21 1997.
- “Six Charged in SoCal Prostitution Ring with Links to Chinese”, Lodi News-Sentinel, March 23 2007.
- “Santa Ana’s 10-Year War on Prostitution”, Orange County Register, March 27 2013.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Police Retrace Steps of Woman Whose Body Was Found at Plant”, Orange County Register, March 17 2014.
- “Human Trafficking Focus of Woman’s Slaying”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, March 18 2014.
- “Slain Woman Frequented Area of Anaheim Known for Prostitution”, Los Angeles Times, March 18 2014.
- “2 Registered Sex Offenders to Be Arraigned on Raping, Killing 4 Women in O.C.”, My News LA, October 3 2014.
- “Accused O.C. Serial Killers Indicted on Rape, Murder Charges”, Los Angeles Times, October 3 2014.