Orange County, CA

Tactics Used

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

Orange County, located just south of Los Angeles, California, has a population of over three million. The county includes the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain ValleyFullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, and Stanton.  Prostitution and sex trafficking are substantial problems in the area; in January 2016, the Orange County Register reported that 104 of the 145 victims of human trafficking identified by county law enforcement in 2015 were “females working in the sex trade.”

The local commercial sex market has also been associated with other serious crimes.  For example, Orange County has seen numerous cases of the homicide of sex sellers, including at least one serial killer who specifically targeted them. Between February 2013 and March 2014, five women involved in prostitution were found murdered in Orange County, and two more were deemed missing.  In March 2014, the body of a woman involved in prostitution was discovered in a recycling plant in Santa Ana, after being placed in a dumpster.

In their efforts, county law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings on the street (since at least 1976) and using the web (since 2001).  In 2012, a neighborhood surrounding Beach Boulevard held a flashlight walk with the help of police in an effort to send a message that prostitution was not welcome in their area.  In April 2013, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would begin systematically releasing the names of all sex buyers arrested in the county, in response to growing complaints about sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation in the area.

In November 2013, the OCDA released a statement summarizing the prosecution and sentencing of 13 johns previously arrested during reverse stings in Santa Ana and Garden Grove. In addition to listing the name, age, and hometown of each offender, the statement detailed the circumstances surrounding each man’s arrest. Several of the men convicted face jail time, 2-4 years informal probation, AIDS testing and education, and mandatory community service. All were required to donate $100 to the county’s Victim/Witness Emergency Fund.

In February 2014 and October 2014, similar statements were released by the OCDA, describing the conviction of 14 sex buyers arrested in January and September 2014 for attempting to buy sex. The defendants in these cases approached a female decoy “in areas known for prostitution and human trafficking in Orange County.”  The defendants were each sentenced up to three years informal probation, up to 15 days in jail with the possibility of CalTrans in lieu of jail, must submit to AIDS testing and education, and some were required to donate to the Victim/Witness Emergency fund. CalTrans is a community service program offered in appropriate cases as a sentencing option in Orange County.  The program involves removing litter from roads, clearing brush or removing graffiti from the walls of city buildings, and is generally set as a condition of probation.


Key Partners

  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office
  • Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Orange County District Attorney’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (HEAT)
  • Garden Grove Police Department
  • Santa Ana Police Department
  • CalTrans Freeway Work Program

Key Sources

Reverse Stings and Shaming:

Community Service:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type County
Population 3026786
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