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Kings County is a county of roughly 150,000 residents, located in central California between Fresno and Bakersfield. The county seat is Hanford. Prostitution activity, as well as related problems like drug use, have been well-documented in the county, resulting in complaints to law enforcement. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child endangerment. For example, in 2017 a Hanford teen was arrested for human trafficking for organizing a prostitution ring of 14- and 15-year-old girls. She was tried on charges of human trafficking of a minor, sending threatening emails to a family member of one of the victims, and making terrorist threats in Kings County Superior Court.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. For example, in 2009, Hanford police used Craigslist to investigate and arrest prostituted women and pimps and in the process, cited two men for soliciting prostitution from a female undercover police officer. In a similar operation in October 2016, police again arrested two sex buyers and publicized their identities.
Web-based reverse stings have also been conducted on the county level. In August 2021, detectives with the Kings County Sheriff’s Office arrested 16 men in a sex trafficking sting called “Operation Link Up,” which targeted human trafficking and sexual predators within the Central Valley. Several different agencies within the area helped the Kings County Sheriff’s Office with the three-day sting, including the Hanford Police Department, Lemoore Police Department, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Kings County Major Crimes Task Force, and the California Department of Justice Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Team. Officials from participating agencies posed as 13-year-old and 16-year-old minors on various social media sites. Over the course of the operation, 16 different adult individuals made contact with the decoy minors and asked them for sexual acts. According to officials, all 16 suspects agreed to meet the underaged decoys at several locations within Kings County to commit the sexual acts. All suspects were booked into the Kings County Jail on various charges related to arranging to meet a minor for sexual acts, sending sexually explicit materials to a minor, and meeting at an agreed-upon location for sexual acts. Deputies also said that during the operation, detectives with the Lemoore Police Department posed as adults looking to be paid for sexual acts on multiple social media outlets, and that during the operation, a man was arrested for soliciting prostitution. All the men arrested had their identities and mugshots released in news reports.
- Kings County Sheriff’s Office
- Kings County District Attorney’s Office
- Kings County Major Crimes Task Force
- Kings County Jail
- Hanford Police Department
- Lemoore Police Department
- California Department of Justice
- Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Team
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.ksee24.com/news/local (2009)
- Fresno Bee, May 14, 2009. Craigslist prostitution sting in Hanford nets 3.
- https://www.facebook.com/four-women-arrested-booked-kings-county-jail-on-suspicion-of-prostitution (2016)
- https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/arrests-in-prostitution-sting (2016)
- https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/local-news/16-arrested-in-sex-trafficking-sting-conducted-by-kings-county-sheriffs-office (2021)
- https://kmph.com/news/local/16-arrested-in-sting-operation-targeting-sexual-predators-in-kings-county (2021)
- https://www.kmjnow.com/17-busted-for-human-trafficking-sex-crimes-in-kings-county-during-operation-link-up (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- https://hanfordsentinel.com/the-mystery-of-hanford-teen-prostitution (2017)
- https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/teen-girl-led-sex-trafficking-ring (2017)
- https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/Woman-who-led-prostitution-ring-as-teen-gets-13-years-in-prison (2017)
- https://abc30.com/hanford-missing-teen-human-trafficking (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/undercover-sting-operation-leads-to-seven-prostitution-arrests (2017)
- https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/woman-arrested-for-prostitution-at-lemoore-spa (2018)
- https://abc30.com/55-year-old-woman-arrested-for-prostitution-at-hanford-massage-parlor (2019)
- https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/woman-arrested-at-hanford-massage-parlor-on-prostitution-related-charges (2019)
- https://hanfordsentinel.com/police-conduct-prostitution-sting-arrest-woman-for-prostitution-and-man (2019)