Ellensburg, WA

Tactics Used

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

Ellensburg is a city of approximately 21,000 residents in Washington state, located in Kittitas County, just north of Yakima. Prostitution activity has been documented throughout the city and in surrounding areas. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, and violence committed against prostituted people.

In response to community complaints, the Ellensburg Police Department (EPD) has conducted at least one reverse sting. During an operation in late May 2015, officers from the Ellensburg Police Department posted decoy ads on websites known for prostitution and sex trafficking. As a result of the investigation, five male sex buyers were arrested after attempting to solicit undercover officers for sex acts. The sex buyers’ identities and ages were included in reports by local media outlets. When asked about the sting by Ellensburg Daily Record staff, an EPD representative commented:

“The prostitution industry often involves the exploitation of the sex worker through coercion, intimidation and financial manipulation. The sex worker trade is often occupied by those in our society who have been previously victimized in some form and not recovered. As a police department, and community, we have a responsibility to de-legitimize prostitution as a victimless crime… The negative social stigma associated with soliciting a prostitute should be pronounced and swift if we are ever going to eliminate its coercive practice from our community.”

In December 2018, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and several partner agencies conducted a multi-day sting operation called “Operation Net Nanny,” which resulted in the arrest of 13 men, several of whom were from Ellensburg, who had allegedly attempted to sexually exploit children in exchange for money in Kittitas County. Undercover law enforcement officers in Kittitas County used various websites on the internet and phone applications to communicate with individuals interested in sexually exploiting children in exchange for money. According to reports, the operation generated hundreds of responses. The perpetrators who were arrested during the operation traveled to meet with the undercover detectives posing as underage girls and boys with the intent to engage in sexual activity with children as young as three-years-old. The names of the individuals arrested during the operation were included in a news release by the WSP. This was the 14th operation spearheaded by the WSP’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), an Internet Crimes Against Children affiliate. Since the original operation in 2015, the WSP’s MECTF had made a total of 221 arrests and rescued more than 30 children from sexual exploitation.

State Washington
Type City
Population 21813
Location
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