Madera, CA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

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.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Background on Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 66224
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