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Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, with a population of approximately four million residents in the city proper. It is the largest city and government seat of Los Angeles County. Prostitution and sex trafficking are chronic and widespread problems in the area, with activities centered for decades within the city, specifically along the Western and Figueroa Corridors, and Lankershim Boulevard in Sun Valley, and throughout the city facilitated by websites and information technology. A wide range of crimes occurring within the context of prostitution transactions have been documented, including rape, assault, drug trafficking, weapons offenses, kidnapping, production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, commonly referred to in legal codes as “child pornography), and child endangerment. An example of the latter occurred in 2003, when a married couple was arrested for running a prostitution ring and selling narcotics out of the they shared with their two small children, aged six months and six years. The pair were arrested after undercover investigators identified them as the operators of South Bay Models, an escort service advertised on the Internet. The offenders were arrested for felony pimping, pandering, possession of narcotics and child endangerment. A client list was found with over 1,000 sex buyers. In February, 2013, two suspects sought in connection with a child pornography case tied to the San Fernando Valley were indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to produce “child pornography,” production of child pornography, conspiracy to engage in child sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of children. The indictments identified on defendant allegedly involved in the production of a widely circulated series of CSAM images taken about 11 years previously. The pictures show an adult man, “John Doe,” and a woman, the defendant, sexually molesting a girl whom investigators confirmed was between 11 and 13 at the time the images were taken. Between 2001 and 2003, the indictment alleged that the defendant “worked as a prostitute,” provided the child victim with crack cocaine and, on multiple occasions, directed the child to engage in sexual acts with male “clients.” In one instance, the defendant brought the victim to “John Doe’s” residence, where both sexually abused the victim and photographed the assault. In September, 2022, an arraignment was held for an Echo Park man who prosecutors said agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of using a social media messaging app to distribute “child pornography” (CSAM) and attempt to sex-traffic two children under the age of 14. Prosecutors said the man used the Kik Messenger app in an attempt to traffic two children, aged 7 and 9.
Several serial killers have targeted prostituted people, in addition to numerous individual homicides of prostituted people (as well as sex buyers and sex traffickers/pimps) have occurred. Among the more serious issues associated to the commercial sex market in the county are sex trafficking of adults and minors and illicit massage businesses (IMBs). For example, in 1971, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in coordination with the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Chiropractor Association, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, conducted the largest prostitution operation as of April 1971. The eight-month long investigation consisted of 22 undercover raids at massage parlors and related sites suspected of prostitution and sex trafficking activity and resulted in the arrest of 61 individuals. Twenty-seven of the arrested offenders were men who were charged with a variety of felony charges including investigation of deriving financial support from the earnings of a prostituted person, inducing a female to commit acts of prostitution, conspiracy to commit prostitution, and bribery of a law enforcement officer. Sixteen of the arrested men were charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, pandering, and bribery. Seven of the owner-operators were charged with bribery. Police also seized over $10,000 of bribe money over the course of the investigation. Although during the undercover operations no male sex buyers were arrested, the identities of hundreds of male sex buyers were made known to investigators after seizing ‘credit applications’ used by the massage parlors to protect against undercover police officers and build a list of sex buyers. Arrested offenders were booked at the Los Angeles County Jail and held on bonds ranging from $500 to $31,000.
To combat the issue, county and local agencies have adopted aggressive and comprehensive approaches to identify and apprehend sex buyers. According to the officers who were interviewed from the Los Angeles Police Department as a result of our National Assessment in 2012, the LAPD was among the first forces in the U.S. to implement the use of street-level reverse stings, beginning in 1973. Currently, city officers conduct reverse stings weekly, resulting in approximately 2,0000 arrests of sex buyers per year. Operations typically involve the use of an undercover female officer, who poses as a decoy. Although the majority of reverse stings have targeted street solicitation, the LAPD has also set up surveillance in massage parlors and replaced massage technicians with undercover female officers when businesses were suspected of illegal activities.
Once arrested, sex buyers are frequently issued SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from entering areas of the city associated with prostitution activity. Additionally, in 2018, the city banned right turns in downtown areas known for prostitution with the intention of discouraging sex buyers from attempting to solicit sex from prostituted people within residential neighborhoods. Between 2003 and 2007, the city also instituted an ordinance giving police the right to seize and impound vehicles used for solicitation. Despite its successes (some 168 sex buyer cars were seized in 2007 alone), the tactic was discontinued after the California Supreme Court ruled it incompatible with preexisting state legislation.
In 2008, the LAPD collaborated with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office to create a “john school” to rehabilitate and educate arrested sex buyers. The initiative, named the “Prostitution Diversion Program,” was modeled after the First Offender Prosecution Program (FOPP) in San Francisco. Sex buyers may sign up for the program if they have no prior arrests for solicitation, drugs, or violent crime, and are willing to pay a $600 fee and submit to a HIV test. Once enrolled, the men must complete the 8-hour course that includes a lecture on STD transmission and presentations from police officers, former sex sellers, and representatives from Sex Addicts Anonymous. In exchange, graduates of the program may have their solicitation charges waived within the year if they are compliant and avoid rearrest. Between 2008 and 2014, 1,400 men had completed the program– only four had been subsequently rearrested. Additionally, as of 2021, about 3,700 participants have successfully completed the program.
In 2015, the Los Angeles City Council approved a debated “John Letters” motion wherein individuals suspected of soliciting commercial sex would receive “John Letters.” In addition, the motion allowed LAPD officers to record license plate numbers in order to send letters to the registered owners’ homes.
Many neighborhoods with the large city of Los Angeles have spearheaded anti-prostitution efforts, including those that focus specifically on sex buyers in some way. A LAPD community liaison officer said that the West Adams community in particular has taken action. The intersection at 29th Street and Western Avenue had been known as one of the worst “tracks” for street-level deals, and one West Adams resident responded by starting a Twitter account called Stop Prostitution. Another neighborhood group is the Van Nuys Homeowners Association, which in September 2013 was forming the grassroots “Group Against Street Prostitution” (GASP). Among the community’s complaints are the inability to sleep at night because prostituted people shout at cars to flag down potential sex buyers in addition to arguing with sex traffickers/pimps and potential sex buyers; residents find used condoms thrown on their lawns; and cars in front of residents’ houses are seen with prostituted women and trafficked persons engaging in commercial sex with sex buyers.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that occurred within the city. For example, in 2003, a Woodland Hills athletic director at El Camino Real High School was arrested after attempting to solicit sex from an undercover female LAPD officer. The former athletic director was immediately reassigned to a position in which he would not have contact with children following his arrest. His case was later dismissed despite being arrested for the same offense of soliciting prostitution in 1993. In April of 2015, the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International fired one of its high-level executives (Executive Chairman for the Americas) for allegedly using his company email address repeatedly “to solicit and arrange for meetings with at least 20 different call girls and escorts.’’ In addition, Korn/Ferry alleged that the man used his company email “to receive and distribute photographs of nude and seminude women.” In March of 2016, the Dean of the Keck School of Medicine (University of Southern California) and a renowned eye surgeon resigned in the aftermath of public allegations of patronizing prostituted women. He was initially placed on administrative leave before his resignation.
- Los Angeles Police Department
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
- Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office
- Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
- Los Angeles City Council
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Los Angeles Metro’s Child Trafficking Awareness Campaign
- Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST)
- California Against Slavery
- Korn/Ferry International (Executive Search Firm)
- Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
National Assessment II Survey, Interviews, Site Visit (2022)
- “Hollywood Blvd., Ordinary By Day, Is Sordid By Night”, Sarasota Journal, November 1 1973.
- “50 Arrested in Hooker Sweep”, Los Angeles Times, March 5 1987.
- “34 Arrested in Prostitution Sweep”, Daily News of Los Angeles, November 17 1987.
- “30 Men Seized in Prostitute ‘Sting'”, Los Angeles Times, July 24 1988.
- “Decoy Prostitutes Help Arrest 29 Men”, Los Angeles Times, September 18 1988.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to 36 Arrests”, Los Angeles Times, May 23 1989.
- “Rosecrans Corridor Vice Spurs Annexation Plea”, Los Angeles Times, September 10 1989.
- “41 Arrested in Prostitution Sting Operation”, Los Angeles Times, October 8 1989.
- “61 Arrested in Pacoima Prostitution Sting”, Los Angeles Times, November 20th, 1989.
- “66 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Los Angeles Times, July 2nd, 1990.
- “Prostitution Sweep Ends in Arrest of 60”, Los Angeles Times, August 26 1991.
- “El Camino Village: 9 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Los Angeles Times, March 17th, 1994.
- “Joey Buttafuoco Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Chicago Tribune, May 25 1995.
- “Street Prostitution: Viable Solutions to Solving the Problem”, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, 2002.
- “Press Conference to Announce Arrests in Prostitution Sting”, LAPD News Release, December 16 2003.
- “14 Arrested in Venice Undercover Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, March 13 2009.
- “Scanner Report: Prostitution Sting in the Valley”, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch, August 12 2011.
- “Cops Crack Down on Western Avenue Prostitution”, Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, February 2 2012.
- “LAPD Arrests 26 in Prostitution Sting on Lankershim”, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch, March 8 2012.
- “Sun Valley Prostitution Sting Nets 34 Arrests”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, March 14 2012.
- “Police to Publicize Solicitors’ Names After Tactical Shift In Prostitution Crackdown”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, March 15 2012.
- “Sun Valley Prostitution Sting Nets At Least 17 Arrests”, Los Angeles Daily News, October 5 2012.
- “19 Men Arrested in LAPD Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, September 5 2013.
- “Van Nuys Prostitution Sting Leads to 22 Arrests”, Los Angeles Daily News, October 19 2013.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Los Angeles Prostitution Diversion Program
- Los Angeles Prostitution Diversion Program Source Materials:
- “Shaming and Scaring Johns Into Becoming Average Joes”, Los Angeles Times, February 26 2009.
- “Reducing Demand for Prostitution Through Johns School, Educating and Preventing Repeat Customers”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, July 10 2012.
- “Prostitution in Los Angeles: Cracking Down on Johns and Pimps”, Contra Costa Times, May 18 2014.
- “Los Angeles School for ‘Johns’ Aims to Educate Offenders”, Los Angeles Daily News, October 25 2014.
- “Ladies of the Night Head to Glendale”, Curbed LA, June 2 2009.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Near Sepulveda Boulevard”, Sherman Oaks Patch, May 24 2011.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Enters New Phase”, Sherman Oaks Patch, June 3 2011.
- https://www.thedrive.com/news/24324/la-is-trying-to-fix-its-prostitution-problem-by-banning-right-turns-at-night-and-it-might-be-working (2018)
- “Seizing Johns’ Wheels to Put Brakes on Prostitution”, Los Angeles Times, February 20 2004.
- “Car Seizures Help Halt Crime”, Fox News, July 15 2004.
- “California: LAPD Prostitutes Hook 500 Cars”, Medianews Group, August 6 2006.
- “Justices Overturn Local Vehicle Seizure Laws”, Los Angeles Times, July 27 2007.
- “Court Strikes Forfeiture Ordinance for Cars Used to Solicit Prostitutes”, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, January 9 2008.
Loss of Employment:
- O.C. Teacher in Sex Case Had a Good Reputation (2003)
- https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-oct-16-me-solicit16-story.html (2003)
- https://www.wsj.com/articles/korn-ferry-says-it-fired-former-executive-for-allegedly-soliciting-escorts (2015)
- https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-usc-doctor (2017)
- https://www.nytimes.com/usc-medical-school-dean-drugs.html (2017)
- https://www.chronicle.com/medical-school-dean-secret-life-illicit-drugs-and-prostitutes/ (2017)
- https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2017/07/17/usc-dean-prostitute-illegal-drugs/ (2017)
- “Irate Residents Ask Police Action on Prostitutes”, Los Angeles Times, May 20 1982.
- “L.A. Seeks to Thwart Sex Trade on Figueroa”, Los Angeles Times, May 13 2008.
- “South L.A. Couple Battles Ongoing Prostitution”, South Los Angeles Report, January 9 2012.
- West Adams fights back (2011)
- “LAPD: West Adams Residents ‘Fed Up’ with South LA Prostitution”, On Central, March 29 2012.
- “Fighting the World’s Oldest Profession”, Los Angeles Daily News, September 29 2013.
- “Neighborhood Works to Control Prostitutes, Pimps”, Los Angeles Daily News, October 6 2013.
Dear John Letters:
- https://apnews.com/article/ (2015)
- https://westsidetoday.com/2015/11/27/l-a-may-send-dear-john-letters-to-hooker-cruisers/ (2015)
- https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2015/11/26/la-city-council-considers-sending-dear-john-letters-to-homes-of-men-who-solicit-prostitutes/ (2015)
- https://www.nydailynews.com/LA proposes-sending-john-letters-fight-prostitution (2015)
- https://la.streetsblog.org/2015/12/01/well-intended-proposal-to-shame-johns-using-license-plate-readers-could-end-up-shaming-entire-communities-in-south-l-a-valley/ (2015)
- http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2015/ (2015)
- LA City Council Approves ‘John Letters’ (2015)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:
- “Probe Finds Crime Groups Importing Prostitutes”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 15 1986.
- Commission on the Status of Women (2005), Human Trafficking and Child Protection Task Force, 2005.
- “LAPD Seeks More Victims in South L.A. Teenage Prostitution Case”, Los Angeles Times, October 4 2010.
- “LAPD Seeks Other Victims of Alleged Child Pimp”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, October 4 2010.
- “Child Sex Trafficking in Los Angeles: ‘It Happens Way Too Often'”, Los Angeles Daily News, May 5 2012.
- “Campaign to Halt Child Sex Trafficking Launched in L.A. County”, Los Angeles Times, May 31 2012.
- “LOS ANGELES: Riverside Girl Escapes Sex Traffic Ring”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 11 2012.
- “8 Indicted in Inland Empire Teenage Sex Trafficking Ring”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, August 9 2012.
- “In California, An Effort to Fight Human Trafficking”, National Public Radio, August 22 2012.
- “Anti-Sex Trafficking Proposition 35 is Surprisingly Controversial”, Los Angeles Times, October 30 2012.
- “Most L.A. County Youths Held for Prostitution Come From Foster Care”, Los Angeles Times, November 27 2012.
- “Treating Them As Victims, Not Criminals”, Los Angeles Times, December 3 2012.
- “Los Angeles Task Force Takes On Underage Prostitution”, ABC/Univision, December 7 2012.
- “Teen Prostitutes Find Help Getting Off the Streets”, Voice of America, January 4 2013.
- “Two Men Arrested for Kidnapping and Forcing Women into Prostitution”, ABC/KERO-TV 23, May 26 2013.
- “Five Suspects Held for Allegedly Forcing Teens into Prostitution”, Los Angeles Times, August 31 2013.
- “Bills Fight Sex Trafficking One Small Step at a Time”, Los Angeles Register, August 31 2014.
- https://www.criminaldefenselawyers.me/los-angeles-and-phoenix-police-working-together-to-stop-teen-prostitution/ (2014)
- “LAPD Seeks Additional Victims of Pimp who Forced 2 Teen Girls into Prostitution,” Los Angeles Times, July 16 2015.
- “Gang Member Is Charged with Sex Trafficking of 7 Teenage Girls,” Los Angeles Times, January 20 2016.
- “Sex Trafficking Sweep Rescues 12 Minors in Los Angeles County and Nets 198 Arrests,” Los Angeles Times, January 28 2016.
- https://mynewsla.com/echo-park-man-to-admit-federal-counts-of-child-porn-trafficking/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Largest prostitution operation to date, 22 massage parlors raided (1971)
- Customers’ ‘credit applications’ seized by police during massage parlor raids (1971)
- Arrested offenders held on bonds ranging from $500 to $31,000 (1971)
- https://apnews.com/article/ (1995)
- “LAPD Vows to Wipe Out Prostitution Problem On Lankershim”, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch, March 15 2012.
- “LAPD: West Adams Residents ‘Fed Up’ With South LA Prostitution”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, March 29 2012.
- “Prostitution Plagues Lankershim Boulevard and Area Residents”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, July 9 2012.
- “In Walnut Park, Legacies of Prostitution and Misdemeanor Crime Tough to Erase”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, July 11 2012.
- “In Areas Plagued By Crime, Prostitution Remains Difficult to Prosecute and a Distant Priority”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, July 12 2012.
- “Juvenile Courts Work to Treat Teen Prostitutes As Victims”, Southern California Public Radio/KPCC-AM 89.3, July 13 2012.
- “Prostitution Dips on Lankershim in Sun Valley, Business Owners Say”, North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch, September 26th, 2012.
- https://www.presstelegram.com/2014/07/31/alleged-victim-testifies-in-long-beach-prostitution-case/ (2014)
- https://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-lost-women-of-south-central-LA (2017)
- https://data.lacity.org/Public-Safety/Arrest-Data-from-2010-to-2019/yru6-6re4 (2019)
- https://data.lacity.org/d/8c4g-tg22/visualization (2019)
- https://patch.com/california/studiocity/2-valley-massage-parlors-operate-brothels-city-attorney-claims (2019)
- https://www.foxla.com/news/human-trafficking-prostitution-surging-on-streets-of-south-la-during-covid-19-shutdowns (2020)
- https://www.msn.com/northridge-business-owner-says-homelessness-hurting-sales (2022)
Prostitution Related Violence, CSAM:
- “‘Strangler Task Force’ Increased”, Florence Times-Tri-Cities Daily, December 1 1977.
- “L.A. Detectives Hunt Strangler Clues”, Boca Raton News, December 16 1977.
- “‘Hillside Strangler’ Probe Hampered by Dissension”, Eugene Register-Guard, December 28 1977.
- “Man to Be Charged as Strangler”, Milwaukee Journal, April 24 1979.
- “‘Hillside Strangler’ Suspect Enters Guilty Pleas”, Tuscaloosa News, October 20 1979.
- “‘Strong Connection’ Between Slayings of 2 Prostitutes, 2 Girls Reported to Police”, Los Angeles Times, June 28 1980.
- “Hillside Jury Convicts Man in 3 Deaths”, Palm Beach Post, November 9 1983.
- “Los Angeles Hunts Killer of 10 Women”, Spokane Chronicle, September 24 1985.
- “Man Sought in Slaying of 10 L.A.-Area Prostitutes”, Los Angeles Times, September 24 1985.
- “Prostitute Flees Possible Slayer”, Daily News of Los Angeles, January 11 1986.
- “Serial Killer Link Sought in Slaying”, Oxnard Press-Courier, February 14 1986.
- “Coverage of Prostitute Killings Called Biased”, Daily News of Los Angeles, February 23 1986.
- https://www.latimes.com/prostitutes easy prey for killers (1989)
- “Man Who Killed Prostitute Gets 15 Years to Life”, Daily News of Los Angeles, August 22 1992.
- https://www.ice.gov/los-angeles-area-woman-initially-charged-jane-doe-child-pornography-case-named (2013)
- “Slaying Casts Light on Hollywood’s Transgender Prostitutes”, Los Angeles Times, February 4 2013.
- “LA Hotel Where Body Was Found in Water Tank Has Chilling History”, NBC News, February 21 2013.
- “San Fernando Valley Prostitution Is an Ongoing Problem as Officials Work to Control Prostitutes, Pimps”, Huffington Post, October 7 2013.
- “High Court to Hooker’s Cold-Case Killer: No Way You’re Getting Out,” CalNews, Inc., July 22 2015.
- https://mynewsla.com/murdered-hooker-16-purposely-targeted-by-hit-and-run-pimp-or-john/ (2016)
- https://uspros.net/over-200-missing-and-murdered-black-women-south-los-angeles-missing-white-women-syndrome (2021)