Ontario, OR

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

Ontario is a small city of approximately 12,000 residents, situated in Southeastern Oregon. It is the largest city in Malheur County, OR. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been documented in the city. Among the more serious crimes associated with the area’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.

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. On at least two occasions, local law enforcement agencies have taken proactive steps to identify and arrest sex buyers. For example, in December 2016, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office announced the completion of a series of web-based stings focused on reducing sex trafficking and prostitution activity. The stings were conducted over a five-day period. Among those arrested during the investigations were 11 male sex buyers on misdemeanor charges of attempted prostitution solicitation. According to media reports, the men were apprehended by undercover officers after responding to a decoy ad on websites known for prostitution and sex trafficking and arranging to meet with undercover officers posing as prostituted persons at a hotel in Ontario. Three alleged prostituted persons and one sex trafficker/pimp were also arrested during the stings. The sex trafficker/pimp was charged with felony compelling prostitution. According to reports, the eleven arrested male sex buyers had contacted undercover officers to arrange sex acts in exchange for money. All of the arrestees’ names and other identifying information were carried in press. The MCSO, which collaborated with the Ontario, Nyssa, and Payette (ID) police departments, declined to identify which websites the ads were posted on.

The following April of 2017, most of the men accused of soliciting sex in the December 2016 sting were sentenced to short probation terms. Seven of the 11 men arrested on misdemeanor charges of commercial sexual solicitation in December were from Idaho. Most of the 11 were sentenced to 12 to 18 months of probation, with some getting a chance to remove the conviction entirely if they complete that. Only one individual had his charges dismissed outright. One man failed to appear at his court date and had a warrant out for his arrest. Another man who was charged with felony compelling prostitution, failed to appear, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, as well.

The MCSO has also collaborated with the Portland Police Bureau Sex-Trafficking Unit to conduct web-based reverse sting operations targeting sex buyers and sex traffickers in the county. For example, in 2017, a two-day sting operation in Ontario, led by the Portland Police Bureau Sex-Trafficking Unit with assistance form the MCSO, resulted in the arrest of 26 male sex buyers. In addition to the conducting the sting operation, the MCSO also participated in an educational training session from the Portland Police Bureau Sex-Trafficking Unit, where officers learned about the importance of demand reduction and related tactics.

Key Sources

Web-based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Oregon
Type City
Population 11626
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