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Oxnard is a city in Ventura County with about 202,000 residents, located to the northwest of Los Angeles, on the Pacific coast near the city of Ventura, California. Prostitution has been a documented, persistent problem in the city for decades, and has included cases of child sex trafficking. News archives discuss local prostitution in 1902, and the city’s “war on prostitution” in 1946. Prostitution rings and organized sex trafficking were reported in the early 1990s, and continue through the present, and some cases have involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal codes). A relatively recent example was a case in November, 2013 in which Oxnard Police arrested two adults on suspicion of forcing a teen girl to perform prostitution, and discovered 10 other juveniles on the premises ranging in age from 5 months to 13 years of age. The investigation began with a tip from an anonymous caller reporting a 15-year-old girl being held and forced into prostitution at a residence on the 100 block of North Harrison Avenue. Officers located the teen and determined one of the arrestees had taken the 15-year-old girl to the residence and had induced her to have sex with men. They also determined the girl had sex with one of the other adults living at the residence. In August, 2022, authorities announced they had dismantled an extensive sex and human trafficking network that was being run by members of an Oxnard family. Two people were identified by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department as the masterminds of a network of Oxnard-area brothels selling the sexual abuse of women who had been trafficked from Mexico. Investigators say the married couple and their family members operated the brothels at massage and skin care businesses, then laundered their profits through an Oxnard restaurant.
In September, 2022, a 41-year-old man was arrested and charged with a range of sex crimes, including, human trafficking, possessing “child pornography,” and misdemeanor child-luring throughout Ventura County, including the city of Oxnard. Prosecutors filed special allegations based on prior convictions of felony unlawful sex with a minor in 2006 and human trafficking of a minor in 2017. The charges stem from the man’s purported activity across Ventura County over the prior eight years, such as allegedly coercing a woman to perform commercial sex acts in Oxnard, sending sexually suggestive messages to a 14-year-old girl in Simi Valley, and possessing sexually explicit photographs of young children on at least three separate occasions.
Police responses to prostitution and sex trafficking, and the wide range of crimes that inevitably follow from the sex trade, include efforts to combat consumer level demand. The first known reverse sting in the city occurred in 1977. A great deal of activity opposing prostitution in the city occurred in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and Oxnard can be described as an “early adopter” of using tactics focusing on reducing demand for commercial sex. For example, in July, 1981, the pastor of the Oxnard Baptist Temple pleaded no contest to a charge of soliciting a prostitute and was fined $150 and placed on two years probation. He was one of 45 people arrested in May, 1981, during a crackdown on prostitution in an Oxnard shopping center. The reverend was accused of soliciting an undercover policewoman. After the arrest the man’s attorney said it was possible his client may no longer be able to continue as pastor. The man was married and the father of three, and had been pastor of the congregation for 14 years. The Oxnard Police Department began supplementing reverse stings with identity disclosure by releasing the names, ages, and addresses of men arrested for soliciting. Police from Ventura and Ventura County have assisted in reverse stings in Oxnard.
In April, 2016, the Oxnard Police Department’s Vice Unit hosted a multi-agency reverse sting. During the operation, an ad was posted on backpage.com, and as soon as the ad was posted, an undercover female officer began receiving dozens of phones calls and text messages from suspected purchasers. During the phone call and text message conversations between the suspected purchasers and the female undercover officer, the purchasers solicited the female undercover officer for a sexual act in exchange for money. The suspected purchasers were directed to an undisclosed location within the City of Oxnard. A total of 14 men arrived throughout the afternoon to the undisclosed location and were arrested. Many of these men arrived with condoms and the agreed upon amount of money on their person. During one occasion, a suspected sex buyer arrived in the area, but left stating he was too “afraid of law enforcement.” Each of the 14 men who arrived was arrested on suspicion of solicitation for prostitution. If convicted, they would face 30 days in jail, fines and fees, 3 years of probation, and mandatory classes on the transmission of infectious and sexually transmitted diseases.
A local law enforcement respondent to the 2022 National Assessment Survey reported that the city has conducted has conducted public education and neighborhood action specifically targeting the demand for commercial sex.
National Assessment Survey, 2022
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Portraying Hooker Has Its Drawbacks”, Oxnard Press-Courier, May 11 1977.
- “Prostitution Sweep Yields Arrests”, Oxnard Press-Courier, March 30 1978.
- https://www.upi.com/astor-Oxnard-Baptist-Temple-pleaded-no-contest (1981)
- https://www.upi.com/minister-arrested-in-prostitution-sweep-asks-churchs-forgiveness (1981)
- “Marina Decoy Operation Results in Arrest of 9”, Oxnard Press-Courier, October 11 1981.
- “Prostitution Sting Yields Ex-Mayor”, Oxnard Press-Courier, December 7 1987.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Nets 35 Men”, Oxnard Press-Courier, May 18 1988.
- “Prostitution Decoys Lead to 6 Arrests”, Oxnard Press-Courier, August 27 1989.
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://citizensjournal.us/oxnard-pd-arrest-14-in-prostitution-sting/ (2016)
- https://keyt.com/14-men-arrested-in-reverse-john-prostitution-sting-in-oxnard/ (2016)
- https://archive.vcstar.com/sting-operation-results-in-14-arrests-for-prostitution-solicitation (2016)
Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related Crimes:
- “15-Year-Old Forced into Prostitution, Oxnard Police Say”, Los Angeles Times, November 18 2013.
- https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-15yearold-forced-into-prostitution (2013)
- https://www.kclu.org/five-arrested-following-breakup-of-human-trafficking-ring-discovered-in-ventura-county (2016)
- https://www.vcreporter.com/news/sex-trafficking-operation-busted-in-oxnard (2022)
- https://emeatribune.com/man-charged-with-human-trafficking-sex-crimes-with-minors/ (2022)
- https://kvta.com/news/authorities-allege-oxnard-family-involved-in-sex-trafficking-and-drug-dealing/ (2022)
- https://www.cbsnews.com/authorities-bust-family-run-network-trafficking-women-mexico-sex-oxnard/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “VENTURA: Japanese Murderer Caught; County Cadets”, Los Angeles Times, March 22 1902.
- “Records Show Warfare Upon Prostitution”, Oxnard Press-Courier, January 21 1946.
- https://www.latimes.com/archives/losing battle on the streeted oxnard-story (1991)
- https://www.latimes.com/archives/6 women arrested prostitution raids (1991)
- “Judge Seizes Prostitution Ring Operator’s House: Oxnard”, Los Angeles Times, January 30 1992.
- https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/woman-arrested-on-suspicion-of-prostitution-near-oxnard (2016)
- https://www.citizensjournal.us/pimping-prostitution-arrest-oxnard/ (2021)
- https://www.vcstar.com/roundup-oxnard-murder-victim-named-gunfire-in-fillmore-more-news (2023)
- https://ktla.com/thousand-oaks-sex-offender-sentenced-to-prison-for-crimes-against-minors/ (2023)