Lake Elsinore, CA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Lake Elsinore is a city of approximately 66,000 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 and sex trafficking in the city for many 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 the’ vehicles of sex buyers 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.

In February 2022 a statewide sting operation targeting online prostitution netted hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents (31 of which were male sex buyers), and nine from the cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula. The four-day-long “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild” was conducted Feb. 7-10 in Riverside County and involved local law enforcement agencies from across the region along with federal investigators from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The local crackdown coincided with Operation Reclaim & Rebuild stings across the state. During the Riverside County law enforcement effort, task force members arrested 31 males and seven females for misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution. The full list of names was publicly disclosed here.  To arrest the alleged offenders, officers placed decoy advertisements on websites commonly used for prostitution. Some of the ads targeted sex buyers who were arrested once they arrived at pre-determined meeting locations, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it first interviewed suspected prostitutes to ensure they were not victims of human trafficking.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Disclosure of Identities:

Auto Seizure:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

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.
State California
Type City
Population 65817
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