Belmont is a city of about 27,000 residents in San Mateo County, CA. It is in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the San Francisco Peninsula halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and throughout San Mateo County. For example, in 2010, a study found that 80% of the licensed massage therapists in Belmont had certificates from illegitimate schools that sometimes serve as fronts to support the appearance of legal massage operations, that are actually brothels. The City Attorney recommended banning any new massage permits for one year, after an inventory of the city’s 46 licensed massage technicians concluded 37 went to schools deemed suspect by the California Massage Therapy Council, a nonprofit group created by the state Legislature in 2009. Prostitution and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in October of 2016, the Belmont Police Department collaborated with numerous partner agencies in the region to conduct operations in support of “Operation Cross Country X,” an international effort focused on ending child sex trafficking. The operation took place over the course of five days and spanned across six counties in the Bay Area (San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Sonoma). In addition to recovering six juvenile sex trafficking victims and arresting 14 sex traffickers, the operation resulted in the arrest or citation of 79 adult male sex buyers, and “cyber patrol” contact with 63 adult men. Cyber patrols involve potential sex buyers being contacted by law enforcement and advised of the harm caused by engaging in prostitution. FBI San Francisco Division coordinated the California effort for Operation Cross Country X, and 28 additional agencies participated.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/sanfrancisco/news/press-releases/fbi-partners-complete-operation-cross-country-x (2016)
- https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/operation-cross-country-x (2016)
Background on Local Prostitution: