Madera County, CA

Tactics Used

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

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.

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, Shaming:

Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type County
Population 156890
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