Lake Elsinore is a city of approximately 52,000 residents, located south of Riverside near Temecula in Riverside County, California. Residents and local law enforcement have reported problems with both street-level and indoor prostitution in the city for several years. In addition, Lake Elsinore has served as the operating base for at least one serial killer (in the late 1980s and early 1990s) and one serial rapist (in the 2010s) who specifically targeted prostituted women.
In an effort to decrease commercial sex activity in the community, the Lake Elsinore Police Department has adopted demand-driven tactics to identify and arrest sex buyers. To this end, the LEPD has conducted reverse stings since at least 1997, using undercover female officers as decoys. These stings have been conducted along major thoroughfares, and from within adult-oriented businesses. Upon arrest, the LEPD has at times seized and impounded johns’ vehicles if they were used for the purposes of solicitation.
In January, 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in that year’s Operation Reclaim & Rebuild, which ran for four consecutive days near the end of the month. RCAHT task force members and allied Riverside County law enforcement partners web-based reverse sting operations in the cities of Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Riverside, Palm Desert and Temecula. RCAHT Task Force members placed decoy advertisements on popular classified advertisement web sites commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These RCAHT Task Force members then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location. The operation arrested 61 males and one female for solicitation of prostitution, and one male for soliciting a minor for lewd purposes. The operation was a collaboration that included the La Quinta Special Enforcement Team, Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team, Temecula Special Enforcement Team, Riverside Police Department and Murrieta Police Department. RCAHT Task Force members also made contact with two adult females believed to be victims of sex trafficking. Initial investigations led the task force to believe these subjects were being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against their will. The victims were referred to victim services for assistance as the investigation into their sex trafficking continued. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports.
- Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Briefs; Lake Elsinore Weekend ‘John’ Program Nets 8”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, February 3 1997.
- “Four Arrested; Allegedly Solicited Sex”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, February 23 1997.
- “Prostitution Sting Brings 7 Arrests”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, June 7 2001.
- “Seven Arrested in Prostitution Stings”, North County Times, June 7 2001.
- “Police Sweep Snares 12 Alleged ‘Johns'”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, September 2 2001.
- “Ten Men Arrested on Soliciting Charges”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, September 28 2002.
- “10 Men Jailed in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 6 2005.
- “‘John’ Sting Nets 10 in Lake Elsinore”, Fallbrook Valley News, March 11 2005.
- “In Brief; Lake Elsinore; Nine Men Arrested in Sting Operation”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 23 2005.
- “Lake Elsinore Police Nab Three in Prostitution Investigation at Massage Shop”, Temecula Californian, June 24 2005.
- “Sting Targets Sex Solicitors”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, February 12 2006.
- “Lake Elsinore: Four Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 1 2008.
- “In Brief; Lake Elsinore; Four Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, August 2 2008.
- “Lake Elsinore: Eight Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Temecula Californian, March 5 2009.
- “Elsinore Police Arrest Eight in Prostitution Operation”, Fallbrook Valley News, March 13 2009.
- “Lake Elsinore: Four Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 8 2009.
- Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- Auto Seizure:
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- William Suff, Wikipedia.
- “Serial Killer Could Be on Loose, Riverside Authorities Report”, San Jose Mercury News, February 9 1991.
- “Link Sought in 12 Slayings; Two Bodies in OC Connected to Regional Probe”, Orange County Register, March 17 1991.
- “Slayings May Be Linked”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, March 20 1991.
- “Prostitute’s Death May Be Ninth in Series”, San Jose Mercury News, July 7 1991.
- “Slayings Blamed on Serial Killer”, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, August 21 1991.
- “Elsinore Killer Leaves Familiar, Bloody Trail”, San Diego Union, September 29 1991.
- “A Killer Is Stalking Street Women in Lake Elsinore”, San Diego Union, September 29 1991.
- “Serial Killer Brings Urban Realities to Lake Elsinore”, Los Angeles Times, September 30 1991.
- “Killer in California Preys on Prostitutes, Addicts”, Sumter Item, October 31 1991.
- “Slayings Leave Prostitutes Fearful; Serial Killer Suspected in 19 Deaths Since ’86”, San Jose Mercury News, January 3 1992.
- “Prostitutes Wait, Worry as 19th Victim Is Buried”, Boca Raton News, January 4 1992.
- “No Resolution Likely in 5 Serial Killings; Some Families Seek Personal Satisfaction”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 9 1993.
- “Police Identify Elsinore’s 1st Homicide Victim of ’94”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 6 1994.
- “Woman Slain, Left in Road; Two Such Finds in Six Months Raise the Possibility of the Presence of a Serial Killer, Police Say”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, November 2 1994.
- “In Death, Victims against Courts; Perhaps Because the Women Killed Were Prostitutes, the Suff Trial Has a Low Profile”, Orange County Register, April 3 1995.
- “Calif. Man Convicted of Murdering 12 Prostitutes”, Kingsport Daily News, July 21 1995.
- “Jury Asks for Death Penalty for Convicted Killer of 12 Women”, New York Times, August 20 1995.
- “Woman Found Shot to Death”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, February 20 2002.
- “Jury to Consider Fate of Killer; Court: He Could Get Death or Life in Prison; The Victim’s Body Was Left Near Lake Elsinore”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 7 2007.
- “Man, 27, Sentenced in Slaying of Prostitute, 60”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 30 2007.
- “Man Sentenced in Murder of Prostitute”, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 30 2007.
- “Murrieta Man Charged with Rape, Kidnap of Prostitutes”, ABC/KTRK-TV 13, August 1 2012.
- “Murrieta Man to Be Arraigned on Charges of Raping Four Prostitutes”, Fallbrook Valley News, August 1 2012.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Day Laborers, Prostitutes and Beggars Warned; Lake Elsinore Hits Soliciting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, October 1 1994.
- “Massage Employee Charged with Soliciting”, Temecula Californian, September 19 2004.
- “Two Arrested for Prostitution in Lake Elsinore”, Fallbrook Valley News, January 14 2005.
- “Police Raids Try to Stem Prostitution; Arrests: Operations in Murrieta, Temecula and Lake Elsinore also Target Some Massage Parlors”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 23 2005.
- “Woman Arrested for Prostitution at Acupuncture Business”, Fallbrook Valley News, May 12 2006.
- “Stronger Rules on Massage Parlors Eyed; Prostitution Becoming Bigger Problem, Lake Elsinore Police Say”, North County Times, May 5 2007.
- “Council Votes to Rub Out Prostitution at Businesses”, North County Times, May 9 2007.
- “Lake Elsinore Moves to Tighten Ordinance on Massage Parlors; Proposal: The Rule Would Try to Make Sure the Businesses Are Not Engaged in Prostitution”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 10 2007.
- “Massage License Denial Likely; Lake Elsinore: The City Council Ruling Would Be the First Under a New Law Targeting Illicit Activity”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 5 2008.