San Luis Obispo County is located roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. News reports of prostitution within the county date as far back as the early 20th century, and more recently, sex trafficking has been documented. Prostituted women have also been murdered within the county.
To address these issues, law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings since at least 2003, and routinely release the names of the johns they arrest. In particular, officers from San Luis Obispo Police Department and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office frequently target johns who solicit sex online. In September 2013, for example, SLOPD officers collaborated with their counterparts in nearby Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach on a three-day web sting targeting both sex buyers and prostituted women. Officers posted and responded to advertisements soliciting sex on MyRedbook.com, and arranged to meet individuals who replied at nearby hotels. When asked about the impetus for and timing of the operation, SLOPD representatives stated that they had hoped “to discourage prostitutes and their clients from hooking up in local cities after two incidents of alleged violent rape, assault and robbery against prostitutes occurred in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo hotels earlier” in 2013. One SLOPD officer commented that “we do this because there are men out there raping and beating prostitutes. And it’s a health issue. Some of the men we’ve caught are having sex with prostitutes, then going home to their wives.”
In October 2014, the SLOPD again partnered with Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach officers to conduct a second web-based sting targeting johns and prostituted women as part of a multi-agency effort to suppress human trafficking for sex and acts of prostitution in local communities. Thirty-seven adults were arrested as a result, including several sex buyers. All of the offenders’ names and mugshots were publicized by local media outlets, and all were booked into San Luis Obispo County jail.
In July, 2020, seven men were charged for solicitation of prostitution after they were arrested within the county during a statewide anti-human trafficking operation. The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office announced the filing of criminal charges against seven individuals for solicitation of prostitution and the conviction of one individual for human trafficking. The eight cases are based on arrests made during “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild 2020” that took place across California during the month of January. The operation was aimed at breaking networks of human trafficking, identifying and assisting survivors of trafficking and reducing the demand for trafficking of minors. The arrested men were identified in public news releases. The statewide operation was led by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force. The San Luis Obispo County effort included nearly 50 law enforcement and partner staff members from the following organizations: Santa Barbara County Sheriff, Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, San Luis Obispo County Probation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (Santa Maria Office), California Department of Justice, Deliverfund, and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.