Merced, CA

Tactics Used

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

Merced is a city of approximately 80,000 residents, located roughly midway between Fresno and Stockton in Merced County, California. Both prostitution and child sex trafficking are identified as problems in the city.  Some of the local prostitution is known to be gang-related, in the form of prostitution rings meant to generate income for gangs.

In an effort to reduce the consumer-level demand for commercial sex, the Merced Police Department has conducted reverse stings. For example, during an operation conducted in 2010, 12 johns were arrested within a five-hour period. More recently, the MPD conducted two “dual” sting operations (targeting both johns and prostituted women) in September and October 2013.

When asked about the operations, Merced police stated that they were driven by a recent spike in sex crimes in the area. Specifically, an incident involving a 17-year-old girl allegedly forced into prostitution helped launch the investigation, and led to the arrests of two suspects. Police were further motivated by an incident on September 15, 2013, wherein three gang members were arrested after allegedly shooting a prostituted woman who refused to make change for a $100 bill. Officers also mentioned a June 2013 stabbing of a man during an argument over a cellphone that he apparently tried to trade for sex.

In response to the violence centered around commercial sex, Merced police conducted the joint sting/reverse sting operations in 2013, and made “at least 34 arrests and citations” during three undercover sting operations aimed at taking down suspected brothels and other areas known for prostitution. At least 24 of those arrested were “johns.” All offenders’ names were released to the public.  Allegations against those arrested or cited in the case ranged from solicitation and assault to sex trafficking of a minor and attempted murder. The arrests were the product of a five-month investigation.

In February of 2017, officers of the Merced Police Department’s DART (Disruptive Area Response Team) began an undercover internet sting operation targeting traffickers and any people actively using the internet to engage in sexual activities. From February to April of 2017conducted operations targeting people willing to arrange to have sexual relations with juveniles. Officers posted non-sexual advertisements and when contacted by the suspects, would engage in online conversations where the suspects would make arrangements to engage in sex acts after being told that the person they were arranging to have sex with were juveniles.  The results of the operation are as follows:

  • On February 20th 2017, officers of the DART unit arrested a 48 year old man at a local fast food restaurant after he arranged to meet a juvenile for sex acts in exchange for narcotics. He was booked at the Merced County Jail for 288.4(b) PC Contact with a minor with intent to commit a sex offense, and later served a 180 day sentence.
  • On February 22nd 2017, officers of the DART unit arrested a 36  year old man in Steven Leanord Park after he arranged to meet a juvenile in the park and take her to his house to engage in sexual acts. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC, Contact with a minor with intent to commit sexual offense.
  • On March 1st 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 23  year old man at a residence in Merced when he arrived at the location to meet a juvenile, provide narcotics and to perform sex acts with the juvenile. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC. He was released after posting $5000 bond.
  • On March 6th 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 53  year old man at a residence in Merced after he arrived at the location to engage in sex acts with a juvenile. Falcon was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC.  He was released after posting $5000 bond.
  • On March 13th 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 54  year old man at a residence in Merced after he arrived at the location to engage in sex acts with a juvenile. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC.
  • On March 15th 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 61  year old man near Golden Valley High School after he arranged to have a juvenile ditch school and leave with him to engage in sex acts. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.
  • On March 21st 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 28 year old man at a residence in Merced after he arrived to meet a juvenile for sex acts and for sending pornographic material to a minor. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC and 288.2(a)(2) PC.
  • On March 22nd 2017, officers of the DART Unit arrested a 50 year old man at his residence for sending harmful matter to a minor. He was booked at the Merced County Main Jail for 288.2(a) (2) PC.
  • On March 22nd, 2017 officers of the DART Unit arrested a 56 year old man at a residence in Merced after he arrived to perform sex acts with a juvenile. He was booked the Merced County Main Jail for 288.3(a) PC. He was released after posting $5000 bond.

In January 2018, a web-based reverse sting was conducted by the Merced Police Department and collaborating agencies, as part of a 3-day-long human trafficking operation. For the first two days, officers contacted online prostitution advertisements and arranged to purchase commercial sex workers in an attempt to determine if the workers were victims of Human Trafficking. In total, six women appeared at agreed upon locations and were interviewed by officers. Each was was provided counseling and other services in an attempt to offer support to leave the commercial sex industry. During those interviews, it was determined that two men were Pimping, Pandering, and Supervising Prostitutes that were detained during the operations, and both were arrested and booked for the charges.  During the last day of the operation, officers focused on arresting people who engage in purchasing sex acts through online advertisements. The Merced Police Department DART Team with the assistance of the MPD GVSU (Gang Violence Suppression Unit) and the Fresno Office of the FBI, posted decoy ads online and arrested seven men when they arrived at the agreed upon location. The identities of the men were released to the public, and all were given citations for the violations and released.

Merced Police have asked anyone with information regarding cases of prostitution or sex trafficking to contact them at (209) 385-7773, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725.

 

Key Partners

  • Merced Police Department
    • DART Team
    • MPD GVSU (Gang Violence Suppression Unit)
  • Merced County Sheriff’s Office
  • Fresno Office of the FBI

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 76879
Location
Comments are closed.