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.
- Bakersfield Police Department
- Kern County Sheriff’s Department
- California Alcohol Beverage Control
- Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “11 Men Arrested during ‘John Sting” on Union Avenue”, Bakersfield Californian, April 21 2004.
- “14 Arrested for Allegedly Seeking Sex in ‘John Sting'”, Bakersfield Californian, August 21 2005.
- “Undercover Sting Operation Leads to Arrest of 25 People”, Bakersfield Californian, July 23 2006.
- “Police Officers Pose as Prostitutes in Sting”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, September 17 2007.
- “9 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, August 16 2011.
- “ABC Arrests 15 People on Prostitution Charges”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, May 10 2012.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 15 Arrests”, Bakersfield Californian, May 10 2012.
- “22 Arrested in Operation ‘John Sting’, Including 2 Juveniles”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, November 3 2012.
- “22 Arrested for Prostitution Soliciting during Sting in Bakersfield”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, December 21 2012.
- “17 Arrested for Prostitution in Bakersfield”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, January 19 2013.
- “22 Suspects Arrested in Bakersfield Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, April 29 2013.
- “BPD Getting Tough on Prostitution”, CBS/KBAK-TV 29, March 22 2014.
- https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/16-people-cited-in-prostitution-sting-operation (2018)
- https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/bpd-release-findings-in-undercover-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/bpd-17-suspects-arrested-in-prostitution-human-trafficking-sting (2019)
- John School:
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Teen Girl Used as Prostitute”, Bakersfield Californian, September 13 2007.
- “Underage Prostitution Ring Busted at Teaser Pleaser”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, October 19 2007.
- “Teen Prostitution: Easy Cash Lured 2nd 16-Year-Old”, Bakersfield Californian, January 11 2008.
- “1 Arrested and 1 Wanted in Local Human Trafficking Case”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, January 18 2013.
- “Human Trafficking Victim Discovered through Online Ads”, Bakersfield Californian, January 23 2013.
- “Grand Jury Indicts Reno Man on Pimp Charge”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, January 24 2013.
- “Sacramento Man Accused of Having Sex with 13-Year-Old Bakersfield Girl, 2 Other Minors”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, April 8 2013.
- “Jury Convicts Fresno Man of Sex Trafficking of a Minor”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, August 9 2013.
- “First Human Trafficking Conviction in Kern County Announced”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, August 26 2013.
- “Man Arrested for Allegedly Attacking Woman Forced into Prostitution”, CBS/KBAK-TV 29, September 10 2013.
- “Man Sentenced for Human Trafficking of 13-Year-Old Victim”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, October 8 2013.
- “BPD Getting Tough on Prostitution”, CBS/KBAK-TV 29, March 22 2014.
- “Woman Accused of Human Trafficking after Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KBAK-TV 29, August 4 2014.
- “Police: Fresno Runaway Came to Bakersfield for Prostitution,” CBS/KBAK-TV 29, May 13 2015.
- “2 Fresno Men Accused of Human Trafficking after Bakersfield Prostitution Stings,” CBS/KBAK-TV 29, August 27 2015.
- http://www.kget.com/riverside-man-arrested-on-prostitution-trafficking-of-kern-county-runaway (2017)
- https://www.turnto23.com/two-people-arrested-in-northeast-bakersfield-for-human-trafficking-of-minor (2019)
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Woman Arrested in Slavery Case”, Milwaukee Journal, January 24 1962.
- “Bakersfield Draws Line on Hookers; Stores Display Posters to Deter Prostitution”, San Jose Mercury News, July 27 1985.
- “Pair Arrested in Connection with Fresno, Local Prostitution Rings”, Bakersfield Californian, May 7 2004.
- “Local Craigslist Leads to Prostitution Arrests”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, August 16 2007.
- “Police: Prostitution Isn’t a Victimless Crime”, Bakersfield Californian, May 10 2008.
- “Prostitution a Dangerous, Drug-Ridden Way of Life”, Bakersfield Californian, May 12 2008.
- “Truck Stop Prostitution, Part 1”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, March 31 2009.
- “Truck Stop Prostitution, Part 2”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, March 31 2009.
- “Local Group Lures Women Out of Prostitution”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, May 15 2012.
- “Prostitute Shares Her Side of Working the Streets”, Bakersfield Californian, February 16 2013.
- “Tools of the Anti-Trafficking Trade: Gifts, Prayer, and Offers of Support”, Bakersfield Californian, February 16 2013.
- “Number of Prostitutes Working the Streets of Bakersfield Has Tripled within the Last 6 Years,” ABC/KERO-TV 23, February 18 2016.
- “As businesses proliferate agencies aim to thwart prostitution and root out human trafficking.” Bakersfield Californian, March 17, 2018.
- http://www.bakersfield.com/news/three-arrested-in-undercover-sting-targeting-illicit-massage-parlors (2018)
- http://bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/several-more-massage-parlors-ordered-to-close-during-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.bakersfield.com/two-women-cited-in-massage-parlor-sting (2018)
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Deputy Held in 2 Slayings”, Oxnard Press-Courier, February 12 1987.
- “Identity of Accused a Surprise to Friends, Co-Workers”, Victoria Advocate, November 8 1998.
- “Accused Serial Killer Tells of More Sex Trysts, Police Say”, Los Angeles Times, November 11 1998.
- “Trucker Might Have Killed More than Four”, Bowling Green Daily News, November 11 1998.
- “Prostitute Lays Down Law after Alleged Knife Threat”, Bakersfield Californian, December 18 2003.