Bakersfield, CA

Tactics Used

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

Bakersfield is a city of over 300,000 residents, located along the Interstate-5 corridor, north of Los Angeles.  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as posing longstanding problems for the community.  Service providers estimated in 2014 that there were approximately 250 individuals involved in commercial sex in the city, and that approximately half were trafficking victims.  In 2018, it was reported that there were 74 active massage parlors and 16 others with pending permits operating in the city, according to the Bakersfield Police Department. There were about 75 more parlors operating within unincorporated Kern County land, more than half of which public health officials suspected were engaging in illicit activities including prostitution and sex trafficking.

In response to such problems, police have included demand-reduction tactics in their attempts to reduce prostitution activity.  In a reverse sting conducted in May of 2012, the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) provided a female investigator to serve as a decoy stationed at a hotel located near three ABC licensed establishments in Bakersfield.  Three decoys were provided by the Bakersfield Police Department, and officers on the support team were provided by the Kern County Sheriff’s Department (Joint Vice Task Force).

Similarly, a November 2012 operation resulted in 22 arrests for activity related to prostitution. The Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department Joint Vice Task Force conducted a street-level reverse sting in an area known to have a high rate of prostitution activity. Twenty-one suspects were arrested for solicitation of prostitution, including one suspect who was also arrested for possession of a loaded firearm. Two juveniles were also arrested for solicitation of prostitution, conspiracy, and possession of marijuana, and an adult was arrested for solicitation of prostitution, conspiracy, possession of marijuana, and child endangerment.  One man was also arrested in the area for an active felony warrant.

Bakersfield publicly releases information about arrested sex buyers in unusual detail. After a 2013 operation targeting both buyers and sellers, the Bakersfield Police Department released a file (Bakersfield Arrestees from Prostitution Stings) with arrestees’ first and last names, dates of birth, age, occupation, and details about the time and location of the offense for which they were charged.

In August of 2018 Bakersfield police arrested eight people in an undercover internet prostitution sting at a Bakersfield hotel.  Six people were arrested and booked on misdemeanor prostitution charges. One of those six also faces methamphetamine and resisting arrest charges. Two others were arrested and booked on misdemeanor loitering for the purpose of prostitution charges. The reverse sting was part of the department’s Alcohol Beverage Control Grant Assistance Program funded by California Alcohol Beverage Control.

In November 2018, BPD detectives from the organized crime/vice detail conducted a “John Sting” near 200 Union Avenue.  Sixteen individuals were cited and released for charged related to soliciting prostitution and/or loitering for the purpose of soliciting prostitution during the operation.

In March 2018, a reverse sting produced the arrest of 13 sex buyers.

Proposed John School

In March 2018 city officials were actively planning a type of “john school” program to educate men arrested for buying sex.  Police said they’re done trying to arrest their way out of the area’s prostitution problem as they discussed a program to show first-time offenders the consequences of their crime. The program is call Prostitution Abatement Restitution (PAR), focused on teaching people that prostitution isn’t a victimless crime. It appears to be modeled, at least somewhat, on the PAR program developed in Fresno, CA in the late 1990s, which included expanding the city’s use of frequent street-level reverse stings, and establishing a john school to educate and rehabilitate commercial sex buyers.


Key Partners

  • Bakersfield Police Department
  • Kern County Sheriff’s Department
  • California Alcohol Beverage Control

Key Sources

State California
Type City
Population 315837
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