La Mesa, CA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

La Mesa is a city of approximately 55,000 residents, located next to San Diego in southern California. Prostitution and sex trafficking of girls, is a persistent problem in the area. To deter sex buyers, the La Mesa Police Department began conducting street-level reverse stings in 1994. Operations plant an undercover female officer as a decoy, and arrest the men who solicit her for sex. To discourage johns from reoffending, police routinely release the names and identifying information of arrestees to the media.

Key Sources

  • Street-Level Reverse Stings:
  • Shaming:
    • “Prostitution Is a Problem, But Is Publishing the Photos of Johns News or Punishment?,” San Diego Union-Tribune, August 15 1994.
    • “Get the Picture? La Mesa Plans to Publish Photos of Prostitution Solicitors,” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 27 1994.
    • “Prostitution Arrests Climb Despite La Mesa’s Efforts,” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 10 1995.
    • “Ladies Still Waiting in La Mesa; Despite ‘Johns’ Law, Hookers Are Here and There,” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 29 1995.
    • “Prostitutes’ Photos, Case Details Put Online,” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 30 2007.
  • Background on Prostitution in the Area:
    • “La Mesa Council Hearing to Decide Fate of Nude Spa,” San Diego Union, July 16 1985.
    • “Ex-Officer Indicted in Probe; Pandering, Pimping Are among Charges,” San Diego Union-Tribune, September 17 1992.
    • “La Mesa Seeks Tighter Control of Massage Parlors in City,” San Diego Union-Tribune, March 3 2004.
    • “Cities Shut (Motel) Doors on Prostitution,” San Diego Union-Tribune, June 14 1997.
    • “La Mesa Massage Parlors Lose Bid to Stay at Present Locations,” San Diego Union-Tribune, June 26 1997.
    • “School Board Member Arrested,” San Diego Union-Tribune, February 13 2004.
    • “La Mesa Police Shut down Brothel, Arrest Four,” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 12 2007.
    • “Prostitution Arrests in La Mesa,” San Diego Union-Tribune, January 29 2009.
  • Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
    • “Rape-Case Suspect Faces New Charges,” San Diego Union, May 14 1988.
    • “Prostitute Tells of Rape, Robbery,” San Diego Union-Tribune, August 27 2004.
State California
Type City
Population 53990
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