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Riverside County is in southern California southeast of Los Angeles with a population of approximately 2.1 million. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial problems in the communities (e.g., Corona, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Riverside, Temecula) and unincorporated ares of the county. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police and federal FBI agents conducted a long-term joint investigation into human trafficking of minors and prostitution. More than one serial killer have specifically targeted prostituted women and girls in the county, and there have been other assaults and homicides of people involved in commercial sex.
To address consumer-level demand for commercial sex that drives both prostitution and sex trafficking, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside Police and other agencies have conducted county-wide reverse stings on both street level and using the internet. For example, in January, 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in the annual statewide Operation Reclaim & Rebuild, which ran for a week 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. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports. During that operation, on January 27, 2021, the Murrieta Police Department and the RCAHT conducted a proactive enforcement operation that targeted online prostitution; 10 males were arrested for solicitation of prostitution and one male was arrested for supervising/aiding a person to commit prostitution. Murrieta PD also contacted one adult female who was believed to be the victim of human trafficking and possibly being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against her will. The identities of the 10 sex buyers were released to the public.
In February 2022 a statewide sting operation targeting online prostitution netted hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents (31 of which were male sex buyers), and nine from the cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula. 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 publicly disclosed here. To arrest the alleged offenders, officers placed decoy advertisements on websites commonly used for prostitution. Some of the ads targeted sex buyers who were arrested once they arrived at pre-determined meeting locations, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it first interviewed suspected prostitutes to ensure they were not victims of human trafficking.
- Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT)
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Office
- Riverside Police Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Murrieta Police Department
- La Quinta Special Enforcement Team
- Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team
- Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team
- Temecula Special Enforcement Team
Web-based Reverse Stings, Disclosure of Identities:
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/CivicAlerts.aspx (2021)
- https://www.facebook.com/MurrietaPD/posts (2021)
- https://patch.com/prostitution-sting-arrests-temecula-murrieta-lake-elsinore (2022)
- “‘Johns’ Arrested in Police Sting”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, June 1 2001.
- “Prostitution Sting”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, January 22 2003.
- “John Program”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, April 17 2003.
- “John Program Nets Arrests”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, September 24 2003.
- “‘John Program”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, January 21 2004.
- “‘John’ Program Arrests”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, May 11 2004.
- “Ten Males Arrested for Solicitation of Prostitution”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, May 27 2004.
- “‘John’ Program”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, November 2 2005.
- “7 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, August 21 2008.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 11 Arrests”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, May 26 2009.
- “Riverside Sheriff’s Arrest 8 During Prostitution Sting”, San Bernardino Sun, July 21 2009.
- “Riverside Police Conducts Sting Operation”, Press Release, Riverside Police Department, February 18 2010.
- “11 Men Arrested in Riverside Sex Sting”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, February 18 2011.
- “Riverside Targets Prostitution in Police Sting”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, March 24 2011.
- “Riverside: Eight Arrested in Anti-Prostitution Sting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 17 2013.
- “RIVERSIDE: 11 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, October 9 2013.
- “RIVERSIDE: Undercover Prostitution Sting Nets Eight ‘Johns’”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, November 22 2013.
- “7 Arrested During Prostitution Sting in Riverside”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, January 28 2014.
- “RIVERSIDE: Nine Men Arrested in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, August 15 2014.
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2051 (2021)
- “Johns’ Names Get Listed in Newspaper Ads”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, September 1 1991.
- “Names in the News Can Include Johns, L.B. Council Say”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, November 20 1991.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Nine Indicted on Child Sex Trafficking Charges”, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 15 2009.
- “NAACP Riverside Meeting to Focus on Human Exploitation and Trafficking”, Black Voice News, April 14 2011.
- “Human Trafficking a Problem in Inland Area, Police Say”, Riverside Post-Enterprise, April 25 2011.
- “Two Sentenced in Sex-Trafficking Cases”, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 7 2011.
- “CORONA: Human Trafficking a Reality in Inland Area, Expert Says”, Riverside Post-Enterprise, January 26 2012.
- “Federal Indictments in Riverside/LA Prostitution Ring”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, August 9 2012.
- “Riverside: Underage Girls Rescued in Sex Trafficking Sting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 29 2013.
- “Moreno Valley Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Prostituting 14-Year-Old Girl”, Southwest Riverside News Network, March 12 2013.
- “Man Charged with 61 Felonies in FB Prostitution Pandering Case,” ABC/KESQ-TV 3, November 19 2015.
- “Valley Children Lead to Sex Trafficking Arrest,” Palm Springs Desert Sun, November 19 2015.
- https://www.yahoo.com/news/column-she-killed-man-trafficked (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “The Riverside Prostitute Killer”, Crime Library, TruTV.com.
- William Suff, Wikipedia.
- “Serial Killer Brings Urban Realities to Lake Elsinore”, Los Angeles Times, September 30 1991.
- “Killer in Southern California Preys on Prostitute, Addicts”, Albany Herald, October 31 1991.
- “Suspect Reportedly in Jail in Murders of Prostitutes”, Lodi News-Sentinel, January 14 1992.
- “Nice-Guy Neighbor: Could He Really Be a Serial Killer?”, Los Angeles Times, February 17 1992.
- “A Trail of Death: 3 Years After Arrest, Man to Go on Trial in 13 Slayings”, Los Angeles Times, March 26 1995.
- “Californian Is Guilty in Killing of 12 Prostitutes”, New York Times, July 20 1995.
- “Serial Killer Sentenced to Death”, Los Angeles Times, October 27 1995.
- https://www.yahoo.com/news/column-she-killed-man-trafficked (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.modbee.com/news/local/article3094817.html (2007)
- “Internet Replacing Streetwalking for Inland Prostitution”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 1 2008.
- “RivCo Supes to Discuss Ways to Thwart Prostitution at Board Meeting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 28 2013.
- “UPDATE: Supervisor Stone Proposes to Cut Prostitution and Pimping with Tighter Controls on Hotels/Motels”, Temecula Patch, January 29 2013.
- “‘Hospitality Ordinance’ in the Works to Combat Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in RivCo”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 29 2013.
- “Moreno Valley: School Official Accused of Running Prostitution Ring in Court Today”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 30 2013.
- “Sex-for-Sale Posts Add to Prostitution Problem in Southern California”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, March 29 2013.
- https://www.northlawgroup.com/blog/2019/april/what-is-agreeing-to-prostitution-temecula-murrie/ (2019)
- https://patch.com/california/murrieta/temecula-prostitution-sting-nabs-ex-chief-deputy-sheriff-again (2020)
- https://patch.com/california/murrieta/murrieta-residents-arrested-prostitution-sting (2020)