Kittitas County is located in central Washington state, north of Yakima
. Its primary city is Ellensburg
, with a population of approximately 18,000 of the County’s 46,000 residents. Prostitution activity has been well-documented throughout the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking, child endangerment, and violence committed against people involved in these transactions.
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. In their efforts to reduce commercial sex sales in the community, at least two reverse stings have been conducted within the county. During an operation 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.
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.