Lake Elsinore, CA

Tactics Used

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

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.

Key Sources

State California
Type City
Population 51821
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