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Madera is a city of approximately 66,000 residents, located roughly equidistant between Fresno and Merced, along Route 99 in central California. Local residents have reported street prostitution and other criminal activities occurring in certain neighborhoods (particularly on and around the city’s C Street) for over two decades, but it appears that the Madera Police Department only began developing a systematic approach to address the issue in recent years.
Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in 2013, police reportedly uncovered an international human trafficking and prostitution ring operating in Madera that had brought in women from El Salvador, and then shuttled them from one house to another throughout California, rotating about once per week to avoid detection. In July 2016, police say they busted a prostitution ring in a Madera residence, undercover surveillance video of the home showed as many as 30 men per day entering and exiting. They also saw a pimp moving victims to and from the bus station and concluded that they were rotating different people in and out of the house, consistent with what’s been seen in prior human trafficking situations. They also found evidence that some of the women were forced into commercial sexual slavery, with their families under the threat of death in central and South America. Police also said that the men paying for sex were just as much to blame for what was happening to the women as the kidnappers keeping them there, since “…they’re basically paying for these women’s prison and allowing the crime to go on.” In April 2018, Madera Police said prostitution was on the rise and they were “cracking down.” Three men were arrested for pimping, in an operation encouraged by complaints from local businesses and residents in the area of 6th and B streets, near several bars in Downtown Madera.
In 2020, it was announced that a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking was to be opened in the Fresno/Madera area. Police estimated there were anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 women who are being trafficked at that time. A Madera Police Lieutenant was the founder of OLIVE, which stands for Overcoming Limitations through Intervention Values and Empowerment. The organization helps sex trafficking victims by providing a variety of resources, including education and job support. Their safe house is in an undisclosed location and was purchased with donations.
Some cases of the local sex trade have involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal laws). For example in March 2021, a Madera man was charged with crimes including trafficking a minor, pimping a prostituted person under the age of 16, lewd acts with a child, and using obscene matter depicting a minor (child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM).
Between 2012 and 2013, the MPD conducted at least five anti-prostitution operations. One such operation, conducted in October 2013, placed a decoy advertisement soliciting sex to a website known for commercial sex sales. An undercover female officer then fielded responses from numerous males seeking to buy sex and arranged to meet the men at a nearby hotel. Eight sex buyers were arrested as a result, but their names were not publicly released.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
Background on Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Sex Slaves in City, Say Cops”, Madera Tribune, August 2 2012.
- “Police Raid Prostitution Ring at Tulare St. House”, Madera Tribune, March 22 2013.
- “6 Arrested in Prostitution Raids”, Madera Tribune, March 23 2013.
- http://kmph.com/sex-trafficking-bust-madera-police-say-women-were-used-as-sex-slaves (2016)
- http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/madera-police-arrest-three-men-one week-pimping-and-sex-trafficking (2018)
- https://abc30.com/madera-safehouse-olive-sex-trafficking-central-valley-fresno-human/ (2020)
- https://www.fresnobee.com/Madera man charged sex trafficking (2021)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitution Conviction Leads to Tough Massage Parlor Law”, Fresno Bee, November 27 1986.
- “Madera Will Consider Bars, High-Crime Link”, Fresno Bee, November 5 1987.
- “Madera Tackling Crime Problem in C Street Area”, Fresno Bee, November 19 1987.
- “Madera’s Nuisance Houses on Notice”, Fresno Bee, March 29 1990.
- “Maderans Denounce City Inaction; March Calls for End of Crime on C Street”, Fresno Bee, December 14 1987.
- “Southeast Madera Crowd Asks Help”, Fresno Bee, March 27 1990.
- “Madera Slum Crackdown Faulted; City Accused of Ignoring Plight of Poor Tenants”, Fresno Bee, June 7 1990.
- https://abc30.com/police shut down 2 madera brothels/ (2014)
- “Madera Bar Owners Fight Closure; The Constitutionality of a Public Nuisance Shutdown Law Comes Under Fire”, Fresno Bee, May 2 1992.
- “Former Fortunan Is Murder Victim”, Eureka Times-Standard, May 9 2003.
- “Madera Serial-Killer Guerrero Guilty of 1990s Attacks”, Merced Sun-Star, April 16 2009.
- “Police Say Ruby’s Cafe in Madera Tied to Crime”, ABC/KFSN-TV 30, January 5 2012.
- “Police Arrest 10 in Prostitution Sting”, Madera Tribune, April 27 2013.
- “Massage Worker Arrested in Sting”, Madera Tribune, August 3 2013.
- http://abc7.com/archive/ (2014)
- http://www.maderatribune.com/Police-Madera-seen-as good-home-base for-prostitution (2017)
- http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/madera-police-arrest-three-men-arrested-for-pimping-in-one-week (2018)
- https://www.californiacitynews.org/loitering-prostitution-no-longer-offense-under-ca-law (2022)
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