Madera County is located in the geographic center of California, east of San Jose and just north of Fresno. The population is about 156,000, and the county seat is the city of Madera (with a populaito of over 65,000). Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and 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 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 said they had busted a prostitution ring in a Madera residence, which undercover surveillance video showed as many as 30 men per day entering and exiting. They also saw the pimp moving girls to and from the bus station and knew that they were rotating different people in and out of the house, consistent with what we’ve seen in prior human trafficking situations. They also found evidence that some of the women were forced into sex slavery, with their families under the threat of death in central and South America. Police also said that the men paying for sex are just as much to blame for what’s happening to those 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 currently on the rise and they’re 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.
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. 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 johns “requesting her services”, and arranged to meet the men at a nearby hotel. Eight johns were arrested as a result, but their names were not released.
In January 2019 a web-based reverse sting was conducted that was a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional collaboration that included the Madera County Sheriff’s Department (along with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, Visalia Police Department, and Tulare Counties Sheriff’s Department. Investigators posted adds on well-known escort sites such as “Skip the Games” and “Cityxguide.” An undercover decoy was used, and her photo was posted along with the following message: “I’m HOsting lets play 2night!!!” A suspect reached out to the decoy through a text message and solicited sex in exchange for cash, and agreed to meet at a hotel parking lot in Visalia, where he was arrested.
- Madera County Sheriff’s Department
- Visalia Police Department
- Madera Police Department
- Tulare County District Attorney’s Office
- Tulare County Sheriff’s Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- “8 Arrested in Madera, Prostitution Investigation”, KMJ-FM 105.9, October 17 2013.
- https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/hormones-got-best-visalia-doctor-who-faces-prostitution-charges (2019)
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/news/local/sex-trafficking-bust-madera-police-say-women-were-used-as-sex-slaves (2016)
- http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/madera-police-arrest-three-men-in-a-week-for-pimping-and-sex-trafficking (2018)
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.
- “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/9486861/ (2014)
- http://www.maderatribune.com/Police-Madera-seen-as good-home-base for-prostitution (2017)
- http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/local-news/madera-police-arrest-three-men-arrested-for-pimping-in-one-week (2018)