Palm Desert, 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

Palm Desert is a city of about 52,000 residents in California’s Coachella Valley, in Riverside County near Palm Springs. Prostitution is a well-documented problem in Palm Desert, and throughout the county. In February 2015, four women were arrested during a prostitution sting in Palm Desert. Deputies from several specialized investigation teams set up the sting after receiving complaints from residents and businesses about apparent prostitution activity. In September 2016, two women were arrested after an investigation revealed evidence of prostitution at an apartment in a complex south of El Paseo, in the 45-000 block of Lupine Lane. After receiving complaints of suspicious activity, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant, confirmed the allegations of prostitution, and placed a code compliance violation notice at the apartment. Sex trafficking of adults and children has also been a persistent and widespread local problem.

To combat the consumer-level demand for commercial sex that drives all sex trafficking, demand-reduction tactics have been employed locally. For example, in 2020 nine people were arrested at a Palm Desert hotel on suspicion of misdemeanor prostitution, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The arrests were made in the 74-800 block of Country Club Drive as part of a sex trafficking demand reduction program. The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force worked with personnel from the sheriff’s department station in Palm Desert on the operation. The arrests were made after officers went undercover and placed decoy advertisements on sites commonly used for soliciting prostitution. Suspects were arrested upon arrival after agreeing to pay for sex. The task force also arrested four women who allegedly responded to undercover officers for negotiated acts of prostitution. The identities of the arrested individuals were included in news releases. All subjects were booked and released from the Banning jail, according to the sheriff’s department. In September 2020, a reverse sting resulted in 13 arrests of sex buyers in Palm Desert. The operation involved law enforcement placing “decoy” classified advertisements on websites “commonly used for the solicitation of online prostitution,” the sheriff’s department said. During the sting, 12 men and one woman were arrested on misdemeanor prostitution charges.

In January 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in that year’s “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” which ran for four consecutive days near the end of the month. RCAHT task force members and allied Riverside County law enforcement partners conducted 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 sex buyers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the buyers 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. RCAHT Task Force members also made contact with two adult females believed to be victims of sex trafficking. Initial investigations led the task force to believe these subjects were being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against their will. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports.

In February 2022, a statewide sting operation targeting online prostitution resulted in hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents — many of them from the Coachella Valley. 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 published here.

Key Partners

  • Palm Desert Police Department
  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State California
Type City
Population 51541
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