San Joaquin County, CA

Tactics Used

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

San Joaquin County is located in the norther part of the Central Valley region of California, and the cities within it include Stockton, Manteca, and Lodi.  Sex trafficking and prostitution are longstanding problems throughout the county, in unincorporated areas and within the cities and towns.  When the number of human trafficking cases was steadily increasing in 2016 and 2017 throughout San Joaquin County, the District Attorney’s Office announced it was making efforts to educate the public and urging local residents to be more vigilant in combating the issue.

“There’s a lot of agencies in our county that still don’t understand how widespread this crime is,” San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Elton Grau said. “It’s in Lodi. It’s in Stockton. It’s in Manteca. It’s in Tracy. It’s everywhere. No city escapes this crime right now.” [Lodi News Sentinel, May 20, 2017]

In a statement from the public information officer at the district attorney’s office, there were 28 cases of human trafficking, pimping and pandering in San Joaquin County in 2016.  In the first third of 2017, there had been three confirmed cases of human trafficking and more tips and leads were being explored. Two unconnected long-term investigations into human trafficking in the county resulted in the rescue of eight girls, ages 14 to 17, and the arrest of almost two dozen people in early 2017.

In Manteca, sex trafficking and prostitution have been persistent problems. For example, in May, 2015 a federal grand jury returned an indictment against a Manteca man, charging him with sex trafficking of a minor.  The 52 year old man was accused of recruiting a 16-year-old girl to engage in prostitution while he was was employed at the Bureau of Prisons from February to March of 2015. In January 2017, a Manteca man was arrested following a human trafficking operation that used an officer posing online as a prostitute for hire.

Stockton is known to have a visible and longstanding problems with prostitution, and also to have been a stop for sex trafficking networks and an area of operation for prostitution rings.  For example, Stockton is reportedly one stop on a domestic trafficking circuit that also includes Las Vegas, Bakersfield, Fresno, and Sacramento.  At least one prostituted woman has been murdered in the city.  In 1995, seven teenagers found a sex seller in downtown Stockton, drove her to an empty lot, gang-raped her, shot her in the shoulder, and then shot her in the head with a shotgun. In March of 2017, 10 people had been arrested in connection with a human trafficking operation in rural Stockton that led to the rescue of a girl and a woman, according to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.

Lodi  also has had significant prostitution and sex trafficking activity, occurring both at street level and within adult-oriented businesses, over several been reported in the community for decades. Cases of targeted kidnappings, assaults and homicides of prostituted women, and robberies of adult-oriented businesses suspected of prostitution have been documented.

Among the tactics used to address such problems are those designed to curtail consumer-level demand.  For example, in April 2017, eighteen people were arrested in a human trafficking sting in Manteca.  Manteca police coordinated with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the sting to rescue victims of human trafficking, and to arrest the sexual predators who target minors. Some of the charges were offenses related to prostitution. Three of the arrests were for contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense. Those three subjects were booked at San Joaquin County Jail on felony charges.  The identities of the arrested sex buyers were released to the public.

In January 2017, a police sting operation put a 23-year-old Manteca man in jail, accused of soliciting minors for sex. In an ongoing effort to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children, Manteca detectives routinely look at online personal ads. While doing that, they found an ad that appeared to be soliciting young females for sex. Posing as an underage girl, police contacted the person who posted the ad. That person, later identified the man who made sexually explicit comments and arranged a meeting for sex. When he arrived, the suspect was arrested and booked into the San Joaquin County Jail, on charges of communicating with a minor for sexual purposes and meeting a minor for sexual purposes.

The Stockton Police Department and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department have conducted both web-based and street-level reverse stings at motels and hotels known to be used for prostitution. In May 2017, twenty-three people were arrested in a human trafficking investigation and prostitution sting in incorporated and unincorporated areas of Stockton. In the human trafficking case, a three-month investigation into the website Backpage.com led Stockton police to discover that eight girls ranging in ages from 14 to 17 were being trafficked for sex. Police conducted a prostitution reverse sting sting at a motel at an undisclosed location in an unincorporated area of Stockton. Officers contacted 200 people who were soliciting sexual services online and in person during the course of the operation, and 21 people were arrested for soliciting sexual services for money or loitering with the intent to solicit, and the identities of the people arrested were listed in news reports.

The Lodi Police Department conducted periodic reverse stings to arrest johns as well. Such stings have been conducted since at least 1993, if not earlier. During the operations, the LPD typically employs a female undercover officer as a decoy who “strolls” along major thoroughfares known for commercial sex activity, at times monitored by audio and video surveillance cameras. Once arrested, johns may have their vehicle seized, searched and impounded.In May 2018, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office arrested 21 suspects in a reverse sting, and charged them with soliciting prostitution. One additional man was arrested on suspicion of aiding in the solicitation of prostitution. Officials said there were so many arrests during the 10-hour operation that deputies had to stop for the day due to their transport van filling up. Two guns were found during the operation and two of the suspects were charged on suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm. The suspects’ vehicles were seized and towed by police, and the identities of the arrested men were released.  In explaining the motivation for the operation, a statement from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said, “Prostitution increases the likelihood of increased crime in an area, including burglary, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and even murder. Many times Johns themselves are targeted after being lured by prostitutes to a location where they are then attacked and robbed, or worse, by attackers lying in wait.”
In February 2019, a collaborative law enforcement operation between Lathrop Police Services, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the Manteca Police Department yielded nine arrests of people attempting to engage in sexual contact with a minor less than 14 years of age. In April 2019, there were more than double that amount of arrests – taking 18 people into custody in the four days prior to an all-out blitz and prostitution sting one night which netted four additional arrests for solicitation, one for burglary, and one for an outstanding warrant. And all of the contact between the decoy deputies – who worked out of a room at Lathrop Police Services, and included Lathrop Police, San Joaquin County Sheriff, and Manteca Police officers – took place on websites that anybody with an internet connection can access.

In September 2020 the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Lathrop Police Department conducted a weeklong undercover operation that resulted in the arrests of 50 people. According to reports, the sting was specifically built to address the problems being posed by buyers, pimps, and other   predators. Law enforcement made a statement addressing the success of the sting saying that it was “one of the biggest operations against sex crimes in the county”. Despite the major success in the aforementioned sting, law enforcement also urges parents to remember that predators are at large in the area and have an open window to children through technology.

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Key Sources

State California
Type County
Population 726106
Location
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