Hemet, CA

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

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: Talking Points and Slides

Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Cameras:

Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 84686
Location
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