Coachella, CA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Coachella is a city in Riverside County, California. It is the easternmost city in the Coachella Valley, in Southern California’s Colorado Desert region. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been widespread and well-documented throughout Riverside County for decades, and have been identified as substantial problems in many of its communities (e.g., CoronaHemetLake ElsinoreMoreno ValleyMurrieta, RiversideTemecula) and unincorporated areas of the county, as well as in the city of Coachella. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and federal FBI agents have conducted long-term joint investigations into sex trafficking of minors and associated prostitution. Serial killers have specifically targeted prostituted women and girls in the area, and there have been other assaults and homicides of people involved in commercial sex. Relatively recent examples include a 2016 criminal investigation of a Facebook prostitution pandering scheme in which the offender contacted young-looking and underage females throughout Southern California, including the Coachella Valley. A man was eventually convicted and sentenced to 122 years and 8 months to life in prison after being charged with 61 felonies related to sex trafficking.

Another example was an investigation that began in 2017 in response to a presentation on human trafficking at Shadow Hills High School in Indio. It was followed by a tip from two female students who separately provided similar accounts, saying that the same woman had attempted to recruit them for prostitution using Facebook. Court records showed that those actions then sparked an investigation into what eventually revealed more than 69 potential victims over the course of about one year. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the trafficker on numerous offenses related to facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking of minors. In November 2020, authorities announced that two men were arrested in a human trafficking investigation in the Coachella Valley. The men were charged with a variety of crimes, including human trafficking of a minor, pimping of a minor, pandering of a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, oral copulation, and other felonies. As part of a lengthy and ongoing investigation, members of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT), with the assistance of the Coachella Valley Violent Crime Gang Task Force, served a search warrant and then made arrests at the 76-000 block of Pierce Street in Thermal. After their arrests, the men were booked into the Riverside County Jail.

Among the consequences of buying sex implemented in Coachella are the loss of employment and identity disclosure of arrested sex buyers. In April 2021, a man suspected of attempting to purchase the services of a prostituted person while employed as the security director of the Coachella Valley Unified School District was terminated from that position. The man had been charged weeks earlier with one misdemeanor prostitution solicitation count. At the time of his Jan. 27 arrest during a sting operation, district officials announced that he had been placed on administrative leave. In April, officials responded to a weeks-old request for comment regarding his status and confirmed he was no longer employed by the district. The man was released from his probationary employment with the district as the director of security. The man had been arrested at an unspecified location on Gerald Ford Drive in Palm Desert. The Riverside County’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide with the goal of cracking down on suspects involved in prostitution rings and escort services, as well as rescuing the victims. The series of law enforcement operations included arrests in La Quinta, Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Palm Desert, Riverside, and Temecula. Authorities placed decoy advertisements on websites popularly used for soliciting prostitution. Prospective buyers who responded to the ads were actually communicating with law enforcement personnel. In all, 62 people were arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution, while one person was arrested on suspicion of lewd purposes, and another for allegedly aiding a person to commit prostitution, sheriff’s officials said.

Key Partners

  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT)
  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Office
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Coachella Police Department
  • Coachella Valley Unified School District

Key Sources

Identity Disclosure, Loss of Employment:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 42554
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