Hemet, 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

Hemet is city of approximately 85,000 residents, located roughly 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County, California. Prostitution is seen by many residents as widespread and a detriment to the quality of life in the city, and have complained to police. The local commercial sex market has also included child sex trafficking. In February 2014, a group of residents staged a protest at a hotel alleged to be complicit in allowing prostitution on its premises.  One of the protesters discussed the need to address demand by arresting male sex buyers:  “Without clients, there would be no more prostitution.”  A petition was started on change.org calling for the city of Hemet to “pull city business licenses of motels continually supporting prostitution.” More than 250 supporters signed in less than two days.

The local sex trade has also included the production and distribution of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, also frequently referred to in criminal codes as “child pornography”). For example, in 2017 a Hemet man who posed as a woman on Facebook and solicited women and teenage girls to engage in sex acts for money (including two Indio high school students who went to authorities) was convicted of 60 felony counts, including human trafficking of a minor, inducing or persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, statutory rape and possession of child pornography, involving seven underage victims. The offender engaged in conversations with numerous women and teenage girls on Facebook (the victims ranged in age from 14 to 31), suggesting they could make money as escorts. Prosecutors said some of the victims did end up engaging in prostitution. Sheriff’s deputies tracked the messages to an IP address at the defendant’s home, where deputies found photos and videos on his computer of minors engaged in sex acts with the defendant. Some of the juveniles also pointed out the man to detectives when shown a photographic lineup of suspects. The man was sentenced to 122 in prison.

In response to known cases of child sex trafficking and numerous business and resident complaints about prostitution, the Hemet Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings to deter commercial sex buyers.  While operations have taken place throughout the city, several have centered around Florida Avenue. When asked by a media reporter in 2014 why the HPD has targeted sex buyers in addition to sexually exploited persons, the HPD Police Chief “said a key to halting their selling of sex is stopping their customers from buying their illegal services. He said the police can’t simply arrest the problem away because prostitutes aren’t held long in overcrowded Riverside County jails, which he finds frustrating. He said police need to change their environment to make Hemet a place where they won’t want to try to profit by charging for sex.”

In February, 2020 the results from the statewide “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” were announced.  The week-long operation was led by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and 70 participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies (including the Hemet Police Department) and task forces from across California.  In addition to rescuing and serving victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking and arresting then prosecuting their captors, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild also seeks to disrupt the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers. Investigators focused enforcement operations wherever the trafficking of human beings took place and included street-level and internet-based operations. The operation deployed specially trained cyber detectives who posed as vulnerable teenagers and interacted with suspects on social media (i.e., traffickers, and customers who sought to exploit and sexually abuse children). Operation Reclaim and Rebuild resulted in 266 male sex buyers arrested for the charge of Solicitation, as well as the recovery of 76 adult and 11 minor victims and the arrest of 27 suspected traffickers. Downloadable material about this operation: Talking Points and Slides

In January, 2023, a series of law enforcement operations throughout Riverside County targeting suspects seeking or engaged in illicit sexual services produced 31 arrests. The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide in “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” with the goal of suppressing the sex trade by targeting sex buyers, as well as identifying and supporting victims, and apprehending sex traffickers.  The effort in Riverside County occurred when identical sweeps were taking place in numerous other jurisdictions across California.  Operation Reclaim & Rebuild netted a total of 368 arrests and 131 rescues statewide. In Riverside County, arrests were made in Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar. About the operation, a Sergeant with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said,

“The operation targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally, as well as across the state. Often, individuals engaging in acts of prostitution are being forced to commit sexual acts against their will.”

Most of the individuals apprehended in the Riverside County operation were booked on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, though one was additionally taken into custody for alleged pimping, and various services and resources were provided and offered to seven rescued victims. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in a press release by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

Some arrests of sex buyers are the result of investigations, rather than reverse stings.  For example, in April, 2023, a convicted felon was accused of taking a runaway girl off the streets of Hemet, providing her with alcohol and sexually assaulting her multiple times.  He was arrested following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation and charged with rape of an intoxicated person, two counts each of sex trafficking and unlawful intercourse with a minor, as well as one count of providing a tattoo to a person under 18 years old and a sentence-enhancing allegation of targeting a vulnerable victim. The man was held in lieu of $85,000 bail at the Byrd Detention Center, and was slated to make a court appearance at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Sheriff’s deputies received reports that a juvenile girl known to be a runaway was staying at the man’s residence in the area of Acacia Avenue and Meridian Street. Based on suspicions that illegal activity was occurring, investigators went to the location and confirmed that the victim, whose identity was not disclosed, “had been picked up” by the defendant and deputies soon determined that the suspect had allegedly sexually assaulted the girl. The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, composed of personnel from various law enforcement agencies in the region, assumed the investigation, culminating in the arrest and the teenager being placed in protective custody. The man’s “plying the girl with alcohol” and using that to gain access to sexually abuse here represents an exchange of sex for something of value, an interpretation supported by the sex trafficking charge.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:


Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 84686
Comments are closed.