Madera County, 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 County is located in the geographic center of California, east of San Jose and just north of Fresno. The population is approximately 160,000, and the county seat is the city of Madera. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result 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 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.

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 sex buyers “requesting her services”, and arranged to meet the men at a nearby hotel. Eight sex buyers were arrested as a result, but their names were not released.

In January 2019 a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional web-based reverse sting was conducted, in collaboration with the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, Visalia Police Department, and Tulare Counties Sheriff’s Department. Investigators posted ads on well-known escort sites such as “Skip the Games” and “Cityxguide.” An undercover officer posed as a prostituted woman, and her photo was posted along with the following message: “I’m HOsting lets play 2night!!!” A potential sex buyer reached out to the undercover officer through a text message and solicited sex in exchange for cash. They agreed to meet at a hotel parking lot in Visalia, where he was arrested.

Key Partners

  • Madera County Sheriff’s Department
  • Visalia Police Department
  • Madera Police Department
  • Tulare County District Attorney’s Office
  • Tulare County Sheriff’s Department


Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type County
Population 159410
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