Riverside, CA

Tactics Used

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

Riverside is a city of approximately 300,000 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 and at least one pimp, and the activity of serial killers targeting prostituted women and girls. In one case, a 16-year-old girl killed her pimp. In response , the Riverside Police Department and Riverside County Sheriff’s Office have adopted several demand-oriented tactics that target sex buyers. In the early 1990s, local law enforcement begin seizing the vehicles of individuals arrested for solicitation. In late 1991, the city instituted a shaming policy when it began formally distributing the names of arrested johns 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 exploit 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 general area in November 2013 and January 2014 resulted in the arrest of eight and seven johns, 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 on University and Comer Avenues.  The November 2013 reversal was conducted near the intersections of University and Cranford avenues and University and Comer avenues.  The January 2104 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, as well as others, police used undercover female officers to lure people 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 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 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 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.

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

Key Sources


State California
Type City
Population 294437
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