Rohnert Park is a city of about 41,000 residents in Sonoma County, California, situated between Santa Rosa and Petaluma. Prostitution and related sex trafficking and violence are well documented in the city and other areas of the county. For example, in February 2014, a pimp allegedly shot at another male in a local motel parking lot, shattering a vehicle window and missing the victim. In 2006, Rohnert Park police detectives conducting a prostitution sting arrested one woman and, after a dangerous high-speed car chase into Cotati, arrested her pimp. Upon seeing police enter the hotel parking lot, the pimp sped off and during the chase tried to ram a police car, and later collided with another vehicle.
Child sex trafficking is also well documented in the area. For example, in 2014, a multi-agency sting operation resulted in 19 arrests, including two Santa Rosa men suspected of making arrangements to buy sex with what they thought was a 13-year-old girl. Police describe the size of the commercial sex and sex trafficking market as “overwhelming,” and provided as an example the 1,800 page views a decoy advertisement received that police has posted on a website devoted to massage and escort ads filled with explicit photos.
Among the tactics used to combat commercial sex in the city are those focusing on consumer-level demand. For example, in an operation in February, 2014, police said there was a point when it appeared there might not be enough law enforcement personnel on hand to deal with the surge of would-be customers converging on a Rohnert Park motel to meet with a fictional prostituted woman. Within a few hours, 11 men were in custody, including one suspected of arriving to have sex with the decoy’s 13-year-old “sister.” The multi-agency sting included officers from Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Rohnert Park police, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security. There was local concern about the escalating trade in sex in a region once seen as secondary to larger metropolitan areas. Investigators said they’ve seen the Santa Rosa/Rohnert Park area become part of an established circuit through which girls and women from Richmond, Oakland, Sacramento and even Las Vegas circulate.
Five sex buyers were arrested in Rohnert Park in April 2014 for suspected solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor, after responding to online ads posted by undercover detectives posing as prostitutes. Officers from the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force, the FBI, a variety of social welfare groups and representatives from 18 other law enforcement agencies from around the Bay Area, including the Department of Homeland Security, participated in the operation that also occurred in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The effort was a response to the growing availability and demand for commercial sex in the vicinity of the Graton Resort and Casino, which opened in November 2013. Some commercial sex providers mentioned the proximity to the casino in their advertisements. The FBI’s Innocence Lost Program joined the Sonoma County task force in launching the operation. Both are heavily focused on preventing children from being trafficked. The task force includes the District Attorney’s Office, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Petaluma police departments.
- FBI’s Innocence Lost Program
- Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
- Santa Rosa Police Department
- Rohnert Park Police Department
- Petaluma Police Department
- Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Detectives’ Sex Sting Does Brisk Business: Undercover Operation Reflects Shift in Focus to Prostitution Customers,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, February 9 2014.
- “Sonoma County Sting Shows a Changing Approach to Prostitution,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, February 9 2014.
- “Prostitution Sting Targeting Highway 101 Corridor Nets 19 Arrests,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 8 2014.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Man Convicted of Luring Girls into Prostitution by Offering Drugs, Shelter,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 7 2005.
- “Santa Rosa: Man Arrested in Child Prostitution Case,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 5 2012.
- “No-Show Witnesses Doom Felony Pimping Case: Man Freed When Alleged Victim, 16, Disappears,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 19 2012.
- “Suspected Pimp Arrested, Teens Rescued at Rohnert Park Motel,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, December 17 2012.
- “Alabama Man Held on Numerous Charges after 17-Year-Old Reports Beating,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, December 18 2012.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Police: 22-Year-Old Tried to Evade Officers Following Prostitution Sting,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, October 30 2006.
- “2 Massage Parlors Accused in Sex Sting: Rohnert Park Businesses May Close Following Prostitution Arrests,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, June 12 2009.
- “Rohnert Park Votes to Limit Massage Parlors,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, August 28 2013.
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Self-Defense Claim in RP Slaying: Suspect’s Ex-Attorney Says Shooting Victim Set out to Rob Prostitute after Having Sex,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, December 6 2011.
- “7 Years for Prostitution Killing: Sacramento Pimp Shot Customer Sentenced for Gun Possession, Prior Record,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, June 29 2012.
- “Police Arrest Pimp & Release Prostitute after Shooting,” MyNetworkTV/KRON-TV 4, February 9 2014.
- “Female Shot in Rohnert Park during Suspected Prostitution Encounter,” MyNetworkTV/KRON-TV 4, July 2 2015.
- “Rohnert Park: Woman Shot in Motel Room during Suspected Prostitution Encounter,” San Jose Mercury News, July 2 2015.