Riverside County, 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 County is located in southern California, southeast of Los Angeles, with a population of approximately 2.5 million. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial problems in the communities (e.g., Corona, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, MurrietaRiverside, 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.

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.

Employment loss is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the county.  For example, in January, 2021, a senior investigator with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office was arrested on Casino Drive, a freeway frontage road lined with strip malls, fast-food restaurants, a tattoo shop, and a two-star motel.  Decoy advertisements for prostitution had been posted, and sex buyers were arrested when they appeared to complete the transactions. The prostitution operation produced the arrests of 61 male sex buyers including one of their own employees. The man was later terminated from his position with the DAs office.  In December, 2018, Riverside police learned of a male suspect who had offered to pay a person who was presenting themselves as a girl under the age of 18 for a sexual encounter. Investigators traced the messages to a location in Riverside and contacted the man in question, who was taken into custody. He had worked as a full-time resource teacher at Raincross High School, according to a spokesman for the Riverside Unified School District. The suspect had worked for the district since 1991, and had also served as a walk-on swim coach at Riverside City College. The man had been placed on administrative leave by the school district, and administrators said that any teacher convicted of a sex offense is automatically terminated by the school district. The man also was placed on leave from his duties at Riverside City College after he was taken into custody.

Key Partners

  • Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT)
  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Office
  • Riverside Police Department
  • Riverside County District Attorney’s Office

  • Riverside Unified School District
  • 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

Key Sources

Web-based Reverse Stings, Disclosure of Identities:

Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type County
Population 2458000
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