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Murrieta a city in southwestern Riverside County, California, located in the center of the Los Angeles-San Diego region near Temecula. The population of Murrieta is roughly 114,000, 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.,Corona, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, Riverside, Temecula). The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police and federal FBI agents have collaborated with municipal police departments – including Murieta’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 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 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 web sites commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These RCAHT Task Force members then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers 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. 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 Murieta Police Department 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 netted hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents (31 of which 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 prostitutes to ensure they were not victims of human trafficking.
- 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
Web-based Reverse Stings, Disclosure of Identities:
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2051 (2021)
- https://www.facebook.com/MurrietaPD/posts/ (2021)
- https://www.crimevoice.com/2021/07/25/sex-trafficking-9/ (2021)
- https://patch.com/prostitution-sting-arrests-temecula-murrieta-lake-elsinore (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- “Nine Indicted on Child Sex Trafficking Charges”, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 15 2009.
- “NAACP Riverside Meeting to Focus on Human Exploitation and Trafficking”, Black Voice News, April 14 2011.
- “Human Trafficking a Problem in Inland Area, Police Say”, Riverside Post-Enterprise, April 25 2011.
- “Two Sentenced in Sex-Trafficking Cases”, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 7 2011.
- “CORONA: Human Trafficking a Reality in Inland Area, Expert Says”, Riverside Post-Enterprise, January 26 2012.
- “Federal Indictments in Riverside/LA Prostitution Ring”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, August 9 2012.
- “Riverside: Underage Girls Rescued in Sex Trafficking Sting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 29 2013.
- “Moreno Valley Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Prostituting 14-Year-Old Girl”, Southwest Riverside News Network, March 12 2013.
- “RivCo Supes to Discuss Ways to Thwart Prostitution at Board Meeting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 28 2013.
- “UPDATE: Supervisor Stone Proposes to Cut Prostitution and Pimping with Tighter Controls on Hotels/Motels”, Temecula Patch, January 29 2013.
- “‘Hospitality Ordinance’ in the Works to Combat Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in RivCo”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 29 2013.
- “Moreno Valley: School Official Accused of Running Prostitution Ring in Court Today”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 30 2013.
- “Sex-for-Sale Posts Add to Prostitution Problem in Southern California”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, March 29 2013.
- “Man Charged with 61 Felonies in FB Prostitution Pandering Case,” ABC/KESQ-TV 3, November 19 2015.
- https://www.northlawgroup.com/what-is-agreeing-to-prostitution-temecula-murrie/ (2019)
- https://patch.com/california/murrieta/temecula-prostitution-sting-nabs-ex-chief-deputy-sheriff-again (2020)
- https://patch.com/california/murrieta/murrieta-residents-arrested-prostitution-sting (2020)
- https://patch.com/child-exploitation-team-serves-murrieta-warrants-month-long-search (2022)