Riverside, 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

Riverside is a city of approximately 317,000 residents, located 60 miles east of Los Angeles, in Riverside County, California. The city has reported problems with both prostitution and sex trafficking for at least two decades, including the murder of prostituted women, at least one pimp, and serial killers targeting prostituted women and girls. For example, in 1995, a 16-year-old girl was forced to kill her sex trafficker, she was sentenced to life without parole.

In response to the violence and crimes associated with prostitution and trafficking, the Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff’s Office adopted several demand-oriented tactics, that target sex buyers. In the early 1990s, local law enforcement began seizing the vehicles of individuals arrested for solicitation. In late 1991, the city began using identity disclosure as a demand reduction tactic, formally distributing the names of arrested sex buyers to the media. In recent years, local and national law enforcement agencies have conducted investigations into alleged sex trafficking rings operating out of Riverside, that sexually exploits young girls and women. While many of the rings are said to be gang-affiliated, the size and scope of the operations, as well as the extent to which they overlap with the city’s larger commercial sex market, have not been disclosed.

In October 2013, Riverside police arrested 10 sex buyers near University Avenue. Similar operations in the same  area in 2013 and 2014, resulted in the arrest of eight and seven male buyers, respectively. Prior to all three operations, police had received complaints from business owners about women loitering in the area for prostitution, according to Riverside Police Department statements. An RPD vice unit, UC Riverside police, and the California Alcohol Beverage Control Department ran the undercover operations in October 2013.  The November 2013 reverse sting was conducted near the intersections of University and Cranford avenues, and University and Comer avenues.  The January 2014 operation took place over an eight-hour period, targeting the areas of University Avenue and Fairmount Boulevard, as well as Magnolia Avenue and Park Sierra Drive. In each of these reverse stings, police used undercover female officers to lure sex buyers, and arrest them on charges ranging from solicitation to “loitering for prostitution”. All of the suspects were arrested and released with an order to appear in court. Their vehicles were also seized. The charges carry up to 36 months of probation, jail time, and a $600 fine. Those convicted may be required to enroll in an AIDS education program.

In January 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in 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 websites, commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These RCAHT Task Force members then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers 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. The operation was a collaboration that included the La Quinta Special Enforcement Team, Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team, Temecula Special Enforcement Team, Riverside Police Department, and Murrieta Police Department. 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 victims were referred to victim services for assistance, as the investigation into their sex trafficking continued. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports.

In January, 2023, a series of law enforcement operations throughout Riverside County targeting suspects seeking or engaged in illicit sexual services produced 31 arrests. The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide in “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” with the goal of suppressing the sex trade by targeting sex buyers, as well as identifying and supporting victims, and apprehending sex traffickers.  The effort in Riverside County occurred when identical sweeps were taking place in numerous other jurisdictions across California.  Operation Reclaim & Rebuild netted a total of 368 arrests and 131 rescues statewide. In Riverside County, arrests were made in Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar. About the operation, a Sergeant with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said,

“The operation targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally, as well as across the state. Often, individuals engaging in acts of prostitution are being forced to commit sexual acts against their will.”

Most of the individuals apprehended in the Riverside County operation were booked on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, though one was additionally taken into custody for alleged pimping, and various services and resources were provided and offered to seven rescued victims. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in a press release by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

Key Partners

  • Riverside Police Department
  • UC Riverside Police Department
  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
  • Inland Empire Child Exploitation and Prostitution Task Force (ICEP)
  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force
  • FBI
  • La Quinta Special Enforcement Team
  • Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team
  • Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team
  • Temecula Special Enforcement Team
  • Murrieta Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 317261
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