Lathrop is a city of approximately 28,000 residents, located in San Joaquin County, California. San Joaquin County is located in the northern part of the Central Valley region of California, and other cities within it include Stockton, Manteca, and Lodi. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city of Lathrop and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of 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 is child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2007 a Lathrop resident was believed to be the first person convicted of human trafficking in San Joaquin County. The 30 year old man accepted a plea deal on charges that also include pandering, criminal threats, kidnapping and assault by means of force to produce great bodily harm. He was sentenced to six years in prison. According to court documents, he had forced a 17-year-old girl to prostitute herself in motels in Milpitas and Fresno. The trafficker and the girl, along with three other women who were working in prostitution, lived in a home in Lathrop in October 2006. Human trafficking had only recently become a crime in the state: the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act went into effect in January 2007.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and Lathrop Police have conducted operations that include the arrest of sex buyers and child sex predators. For example, in November, 2018 law enfgorcement agencies conducted a 10-hour operation in Lathrop led by the Lathrop Police Service. A command post was established in Lathrop that served as the center for operations. Assisting in the net were 24 Sheriff’s deputies, three Manteca police detectives, four agents from the Alcohol Beverage Control, and two women victims’ representatives. The operation produced the arrest of 19 men on a long list of charges including human trafficking to kidnapping and aiding with the prostitution of a female under 14 years of age. Among those arrested was a child predator who had arranged to meet an under 14-year-old female for sex, and was charged with communicating with a minor for sexual acts and attempting to have sex with a minor under 14 years. Several others were arrested for prostitution related charges. All the cases were to be processed at the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court. Other major arrests included one person charged with human trafficking and kidnapping, who was held in the San Joaquin County Jail in lieu of $1,805,000. Another was held in lieu of $215,000 bail and is charged with supervising and aiding in prostitution, conspiracy, being a felon possessing a firearm in a vehicle and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Six vehicles were towed. The operations also apprehended six individuals arrested who were allegedly supervising the act of prostitution, one for pandering and one suspect for human trafficking and kidnapping violations, and one semi-automatic firearm was recovered that aided in the supervision of prostitution. One suspect was arrested for child endangerment. In addition, a girl younger than 14 years of age was rescued by law enforcement from sex trafficking. The victim was rescued from a month-long ordeal in which she was forced to prostitute by her captor. The Lathrop Police Services Chief said her rescue was greatly aided by the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County in Stockton.
In February 2019, a collaborative law enforcement operation between Lathrop Police Services, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the Manteca Police Department yielded nine arrests of people attempting to engage in sexual contact with a minor less than 14 years of age. In April 2019, there were more than double that amount of arrests – taking 18 people into custody in the four days prior to an all-out blitz and prostitution sting one night which netted four additional arrests for solicitation, one for burglary, and one for an outstanding warrant. And all of the contact between the decoy deputies – who worked out of a room at Lathrop Police Services, and included Lathrop Police, San Joaquin County Sheriff, and Manteca Police officers – took place on websites that anybody with an internet connection can access.
- Lathrop Police Services
- San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office
- Manteca Police Department
- Bureau of Alcohol Beverage Control
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:
- https://www.mantecabulletin.com/news/local-news/lathrop-dragnet/ (2018)
- https://www.recordnet.com/news/20181117/911-briefs-nov-18-2018 (2018)
- https://www.mantecabulletin.com/news/local-news/18-arrested-seeking-sex-kids-under-age-14/ (2019)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2007/05/24/lathrop-man-guilty-of-human-trafficking/ (2007)
- https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/crime/article39057939.html (2015)
- https://www.pressreader.com/usa/manteca-bulletin/20160730/281517930491378 (2016)
- https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/manteca/18-arrested-in-manteca-human-trafficking-ring/432275105 (2017)
- https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/05/02/website-investigation-uncovers-stockton-underage-prostitution-ring/ (2017)
- https://www.kcra.com/article/23-arrested-in-san-joaquin-county-human-trafficking/9588063 (2017)