Murrieta, 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

Murrieta a city in southwestern Riverside County, California, located in the center of the Los AngelesSan Diego region near Temecula. The population of Murrieta is roughly 113,000 and has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial problems within Murietta and in other nearby communities (e.g., CoronaHemetLake ElsinoreMoreno ValleyRiversideTemecula). The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police, and federal FBI agents have collaborated with municipal police departments — including Murrieta’s — to conduct investigations into human trafficking of minors and prostitution.

To address consumer-level demand for commercial sex that drives both prostitution and sex trafficking, the Murietta Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies have conducted reverse stings on both the street level and using the internet. For example, in January 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in the annual statewide “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” which ran for a week near the end of the month. RCAHT task force members and allied Riverside County law enforcement partners conducted web-based reverse sting operations in the cities of Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Riverside, Palm Desert, and Temecula. RCAHT Task Force members placed decoy advertisements on popular classified advertisement websites commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These RCAHT Task Force members then responded to prospective buyers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the buyers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location. The operation  arrested 61 males and one female for solicitation of prostitution, and one male for soliciting a minor for lewd purposes. The operation was a collaboration that included the La Quinta Special Enforcement Team, Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team, Temecula Special Enforcement Team, Riverside Police Department, and Murrieta Police Department. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports. During that operation in January 2021, the Murrieta Police Department and the RCAHT  targeted online prostitution; 10 males were arrested for solicitation of prostitution and one male was arrested for supervising/aiding a person to commit prostitution. The Murrieta PD also contacted one adult female who was believed to be the victim of human trafficking and possibly being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against her will. The identities of the 10 sex buyers were released to the public.

In July 2021, members of the Murrieta Police Department Special Enforcement Team (SET), in partnership with the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce “conducted a proactive enforcement operation that targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally as well as across the state of California.” The enforcement effort arrested thirteen men on misdemeanor prostitution charges and their photos and identifiers were included in news reports.

In February 2022, a statewide sting operation targeting online prostitution resulted in hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents (31 of whom were male sex buyers), and nine from the cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, and Temecula. The four-day-long “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild” was conducted Feb. 7-10 in Riverside County and involved local law enforcement agencies from across the region along with federal investigators from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The local crackdown coincided with Operation Reclaim & Rebuild stings across the state. During the Riverside County law enforcement effort, task force members arrested 31 males and seven females for misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution. The full list of names was publicly disclosed here. To arrest the alleged offenders, officers placed decoy advertisements on websites commonly used for prostitution. Some of the ads targeted sex buyers who were arrested once they arrived at pre-determined meeting locations, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it first interviewed suspected prostituted persons to ensure they were not victims of human trafficking.

In January, 2023, a series of law enforcement operations throughout Riverside County targeting suspects seeking or engaged in illicit sexual services produced 31 arrests. The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide in “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” with the goal of suppressing the sex trade by targeting sex buyers, as well as identifying and supporting victims, and apprehending sex traffickers.  The effort in Riverside County occurred when identical sweeps were taking place in numerous other jurisdictions across California.  Operation Reclaim & Rebuild netted a total of 368 arrests and 131 rescues statewide. In Riverside County, arrests were made in Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar. About the operation, a Sergeant with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said,

“The operation targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally, as well as across the state. Often, individuals engaging in acts of prostitution are being forced to commit sexual acts against their will.”

Most of the individuals apprehended in the Riverside County operation were booked on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, though one was additionally taken into custody for alleged pimping, and various services and resources were provided and offered to seven rescued victims. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in a press release by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

Key Partners

  • Murrieta Police Department
  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT)
  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Office
  • Riverside Police Department
  • La Quinta Special Enforcement Team
  • Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team
  • Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team
  • Temecula Special Enforcement Team
  • FBI

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State California
Type City
Population 112991
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