Eureka is located on the Pacific coast in northern California. It is the largest city in the state north of San Francisco, with a population of 25,000. The historic Old Town is the most notorious area for prostitution in Eureka, and is the setting for the majority of the Eureka Police Department’s prostitution stings. Prostitution in Eureka is linked to heavy drug use – mostly heroine and amphetamines. Other problems associated with the local commercial sex market include violent crimes, such as the rape, assault, and robbery of prostituted women. The city has also had cases of the murder of prostituted women, including the activity of at least one serial killer who specifically targeted women serving as prostitutes.
Complaints from residents and businesses play a large role in police prostitution operations. Most of the stings conducted are of the traditional model, focusing more on the women than the johns. Johns are more often picked up during general sweeps of areas known for prostitution and drugs. Most of the stings are at the street-level, but in 2005, when prostitution began shifting online, Eureka police added web-based operations as well. A decoy was used in reverse stings in 2005 who was not a police officer. A 2012 operations involved both a sting focusing on prostituted women, and a reverse sting targeting sex buyers. If convicted of soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor, the penalty is a fine of $1000 and up to six months in jail. Those convicted are required to take an HIV test, and if they are found to be positive, and are arrested again for solicitation, they will be charged with a felony.
- Eureka Police Department
- Humboldt County Drug Task Force
- National Assessment survey
- Reports on reverse stings and shaming:
- Times-Standard, July 30, 2010. Sting operation results in four arrests in Eureka.
- Background on prostitution in the area:
- North Coast Journal, February 10, 2005. Working the Street: Prostitutes Clash with Police, Neighbors in Old Town. http://www.northcoastjournal.com/021005/cover0210.html
- Prostitution-related violence: