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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.
- 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, Identity Disclosure:
- “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/sex-trafficking-bust-madera-police-say-women-were-used-as-sex-slaves (2016)
- http://www.yourcentralvalley.com/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/ (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)