Ellensburg, WA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Ellensburg is a city of approximately 18,000 residents, located in central Washington state’s Kittitas County, north of Yakima. In their efforts to reduce commercial sex sales in the community, the Ellensburg Police Department has conducted at least one reverse sting. During the operation, launched in late May 2015, EPD officers “posed as sex workers online,” according to the Ellensburg Daily Record. Five johns were arrested after soliciting the undercover officers for acts of prostitution. The names and ages of all of the arrestees were publicized in press. 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 announced the arrest of 13 male sexual predators who targeted children in Kittitas County, during a multi-day “Operation Net Nanny” event. Undercover law enforcement officers in Kittitas County used various websites on the internet and phone applications to communicate with people interested in having sex with children. 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, and this Thurston operation in December 2018, MECTF had netted a total of 221 arrests and rescued more than 30 children from sexual exploitation.

Key Partners

  • Ellensburg Police Department
  • Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington State Patrol
  • Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF)
State Washington
Type City
Population 18363
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