Desert Hot Springs, 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

Desert Hot Springs (DHS) is a city in southern California with a population of about 33,000. Sex trafficking and prostitution have been documented in the city and throughout Riverside County. The DHS Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings since 2007. These operations occurred about twice per year and the identities of those arrested were released to the media. Due to staffing and resource limitations, DHS police reported having an inability to conduct many web-based stings through about 2012, since keeping street-level prostitution contained was a priority for a city dependent upon the tourism industry. Efforts were made to clean up the community through revitalizing abandoned buildings and community watch programs, and some of these general efforts included attempts to address demand for commercial sex. However, in more recent years, the city — often in collaboration with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies — has conducted web-based reverse stings.  For example, in 2019 the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrests of nine people in connection to a sex trafficking operation in Palm Desert. Officers went undercover and placed decoy ads on websites commonly used for prostitution, according to a media release. Task force members then responded to prospective sex buyers replying to the ads. After brokering an agreement for paid sex acts, they were arrested upon their arrival at the hotel. Other task force officers negotiated agreed upon acts of prostitution based on other escort advertisements that were posted in the area. In these instances, women who responded to the undercover officers were directed to the resort, where they too were arrested and charged with prostitution. The identities of all arrested persons were publicly disclosed.

Key Partners

  • Desert Hot Springs Police Department
  • Riverside CountySheriff’s Office
  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Web Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

  • “Police Say 14-Year-Old Girl Arrested for Prostitution Deal,” Riverside Press-Enterprise, September 6 2008.

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:

State California
Type City
Population 32716
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