San Juan Capistrano, 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

San Juan Capistrano is a city in Orange County, California, located along the Pacific coast, near Los Angeles. Its population was approximately 36,000 at the 2020 census. Orange County also includes the cities of AnaheimBuena ParkCosta MesaCypressFountain ValleyFullertonGarden Grove, Huntington BeachSanta AnaStanton, and Yorba Linda. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in all of these communities, and in other areas of the county.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.  A wide range of additional crimes associated with the local sex trade have also been documented, including child sex trafficking and prostitution-related homicide, and serial killers who specifically target prostituted women have operated in the county. In February, 2012, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force reported that there are at least 1,000 victims of human trafficking in the county. In January 2016, the Orange County Register reported that 104 of the 145 victims of human trafficking identified by county law enforcement in 2015 were “females working in the sex trade.” The local commercial sex market has also been associated with other serious crimes.  For example, Orange County has seen numerous cases of the homicide of prostituted and sex trafficked persons, including at least one serial killer who specifically targeted them. Between February 2013 and March 2014, five women involved in prostitution were found murdered in Orange County, and two more were declared missing.  In March 2014, the body of a woman involved in prostitution was discovered in a recycling plant in Santa Ana, after being placed in a dumpster.

In San Juan Capistrano, the local sex trade has posed many of these problems, and generated complaints from local residents.  In May, 2013, two women were arrested on suspicion of prostitution after an undercover investigation at a San Juan Capistrano massage parlor. They were arrested at a spa at 32086 Camino Capistrano. One faced charges of prostitution and obstruction, and the spa manager was suspected of running a “house of prostitution.” The women also were cited for city code violations, including lack of a building permit and permits for partition rooms. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department started investigating the women after receiving a tip about illegal activity at the business. More recently, the cities of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano both passed ordinances in recent years to strengthen regulations on massage parlors, in September 2020 and July 2021, respectively. Such ordinances mandated, among many provisions, that parlors keep well-lit entrances and remove all locks from rooms dedicated to massages.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. Officials at a local news conference in January, 2019, noted that battling the demand side of the equation is critical to fighting human trafficking in O.C. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) reported that they had conducted a half-dozen “sex-purchaser” sting operations to catch sex buyers in the act of soliciting sex acts from undercover officers, including an operation at a massage parlor in San Juan Capsitrano “known as a haven for commercial sex.” Additional similar stings were planned for 2019, according to an APD officer who has run the law enforcement component of OCHTTF since 2014.

Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys.  For example, in September, 2022, a 27-year-old man was charged with propositioning two teenage girls at an apartment complex in San Juan Capistrano. The man was charged with a felony count of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a specified offense and single misdemeanor counts each of child annoyance and soliciting prostitution with a minor. He attempted to solicit prostitution from a 13-year-old girl at the apartment complex and ran off when her mother confronted him, according to Orange County sheriff’s office. At the same apartment building he also allegedly attempted to solicit sex from a 14-year-old girl over a Ring camera.

Key Partners

  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office
  • Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Orange County District Attorney’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (HEAT)
  • Garden Grove Police Department
  • Santa Ana Police Department
  • CalTrans Freeway Work Program

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution:

Local Ordinances:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 35976
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