Novato, 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

Novato is a city of roughly 54,000 residents, located north of San Francisco in Marin County, California. Cases of prostitution and sex trafficking have been reported in the city, at times involving minors. Media reports have also documented the assault and murder of commercial sex victims in Novato. Child endangerment has also occurred in prostitution transactions.  For example, in 2018, three suspects were arrested at a Novato hotel in a methamphetamine and prostitution bust. Undercover officers were approached by a man who offered to supply the undercover detectives with meth and prostituted women. He was arrested and booked on suspicion of pimping, possession of methamphetamine for sale and transporting drugs. Child endangerment allegations were added because a young boy and a girl were passengers in the car.

Among the local efforts to address such problems have been the use of demand reduction tactics.  For example, in June 2014, deputies from the Marin County Sheriff’s Office and officers from several county police departments conducted a web-based reverse sting in Novato, San Rafael, Corte Madera and Mill Valley as part of the FBI’s Operation Cross Country. Twenty-two sex buyers were arrested as a result; their identities were not released to the public.

In October 2015, law enforcement reported the completion of a second reverse sting. The operation was reportedly staged at a Novato hotel, and involved the arrest of five johns. Although the details of the sting were not disclosed, the identities of the men arrested were publicized in press. A San Rafael Police Department press release also carried the men’s names, as the operation was conducted in coordination with a similar sting in that city.

In September, 2022, police arrested several men in Novato who believed they had arranged to meet minors for paid sexual abuse. The arrests are part of a larger push by police in Marin County to combat sex trafficking of minors. Officers from San Rafael and Novato police department, and state investigators with the Northern California Regional Information Center, set up a sting operation at a Novato hotel aimed at finding and helping trafficking victims, arresting people trying to pay minors for sexual abuse, and arresting those who were pimping or pandering. One Sonoma resident responded to an online ad on a site “commonly used for prostitution,” unaware he was actually chatting with an undercover police officer. The website in question, which police did not specify, does not specifically deal in underage sex trafficking, but juveniles had previously posted ads on it, according to police. The suspect initiated the conversation indicating that he was interested in exchanging money for sex acts, even when the undercover officers made it clear she was under 17. The man went to Novato for the specific purpose to engage in a sexual abuse act with a juvenile, but instead was arrested at a motel on Alameda del Prado and booked into the Marin County Jail on suspicion of arranging to meet a minor for sex. He was held on a $50,000 bail. Detectives working on the joint operation also arrested three other men, cited a fourth, offered resources to a prostituted adult woman and were searching for a man they say drove her to her “job.” Detectives arrested three on suspicion of soliciting a minor after they allegedly agreed to pay for sex with a juvenile and came to the hotel. Police also cited an unidentified 51-year-old Novato man on suspicion of soliciting prostitution after he allegedly came to the hotel to pay for sexual acts with an adult. A man who drove the prostituted woman to the meeting “fled the scene in a reckless manner when confronted by investigators.”

Key Partners

  • Marin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Marin County Probation Department
  • Martin County District Attorney’s Office
  • Novato Police Department
  • San Rafael Police Department
  • Sausalito Police Department
  • Fairfax Police Department
  • Mill Valley Police Department
  • Oakland Police Department
  • FBI

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings (with Identity Disclosure after 2015):

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Prostitution-Related Child Endangerment:

State California
Type City
Population 53781
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