Los Angeles, CA

Tactics Used

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

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, with a population of approximately 3.8 million in the city proper, and over 19 million in the greater metro area. Prostitution and sex trafficking are chronic and visible problems in the area, with recent activities centered around the Western and Figueroa Corridors, and Lankershim Boulevard in Sun Valley.  Several serial killers have targeted individuals selling sex in the city, and numerous individual homicides of sex sellers (as well as johns and pimps) have occurred. Individuals continuing to sell sex after being diagnosed as HIV positive have also been documented.

To combat the issue, the Los Angeles Police Department has adopted an aggressive and comprehensive approach to identify and apprehend sex buyers. In 1973, the LAPD was among the first forces in the U.S. to implement the use of street-level reverse stings. Now 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 solicitors, 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, johns are frequently issued SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from entering areas of the city associated with prostitution activity. 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 johns’ 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,” is modeled after the First Offender Prosecution Program (FOPP) in San Francisco. “Johns” 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. As of October 2014, 1,400 men had completed the program– only four were subsequently been rearrested.

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 the West Adams community in particular is taking action. . The intersection at 29th Street and Western Avenue had been known as one of the worst “tracks” for street-level deals, and one 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 grass-roots “Group Against Street Prostitution” (GASP).  Among the community’s complaints are the inability to sleep at night because individuals selling sex shout at cars to flag them down and argue with pimps and customers; residents find used condoms thrown on their lawns; and cars in front of residents’ houses are seen with prostituted women having sex with johns.

Key Sources

State California
Type City
Population 3834340
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