Santa Clara, 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

Santa Clara is a city within Santa Clara County, California, near San Jose. The city has a population of approximately 127,000 residents. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding 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. For example, in March 2022, five suspects in a statewide sex-trafficking ring were sentenced after first being arrested in 2019, according to the California Attorney General’s Office. The investigation began in 2016 when detectives identified a sex trafficking victim at a motel. Over time, the investigation grew to involve 21 different agencies at the local, county and state level, with charges ultimately being filed in Santa Clara County. The five individuals were suspected of using to list trafficking victims for sex and forcing them to commit sex acts at several locations across the state. Over a dozen sex-trafficking victims were contacted by authorities as a result of the investigation.

Some cases of the local sex trade have involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal laws) and violence. For example, in September 2022, a violent child sex trafficker was sentenced to more than 38 years in Federal prison, and his female co-conspirator was sentenced to 10 years, on multiple charges for their roles in a Bay Area conspiracy to exploit minors for child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in criminal law codes) and sex trafficking. According to the defendants’ guilty pleas and the evidence submitted at trial, the key defendant was the leader, primary facilitator, enforcer, and main financial beneficiary of the operation. He admitted that over a 16-month period, he and three other defendants established and operated an illegal prostitution enterprise that exploited numerous women and children. They operated a commercial sex venture and recruited, enticed, harbored, and transported several minor females to work in prostitution and as “exotic dancers.” They rented rooms at various hotels and motels in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale for sex trafficking activities and told minor females not to tell anyone that they were minors. The youngest of the victims were 15 years old at the time. The trafficker subjected both the child victims and his female co-defendants to physical and sexual abuse. They were isolated from their families and support systems; deprived of food and sleep; and given cocaine, alcohol, and other substances to keep them compliant. They were deliberately supplied methamphetamine to keep them awake so they could meet nightly quotas. Defendants posted online prostitution advertisements repeatedly over many months using pictures of the children posed naked. After one victim escaped and returned home, the traffickers sought to shame her by distributing videos of the victim being sexually assaulted by a sex buyer on social media sites. The government’s sentencing memorandum described how three of the traffickers were heard on the video clips mocking the girl and laughing at her as she was raped. The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the FBI, the San Jose Police Department, and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force. 

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. For example, Santa Clara is known to have had a “john school” program in the 1990s, but it was probably short-lived.  Men in the Santa Clara program were included in a sample of john school participants for a study of the sex buyers of prostituted women (Monto, 2000).  More recently, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office occasionally arrests sex buyers, and prosecutors have sent some to the First Offender Prostitution Program (john school) in San Francisco.

Key Partners

  • Santa Clara Police Department
  • Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
  • Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation
  • First Offender Prostitution Program (San Francisco)

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

  • Monto, M.A.  (2000). Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes:  A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women.  Final Report submitted to the National Institute of Justice.  Award Number:  97-IJ-CX-0033. Available at:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Local ProstitutionSex Trafficking, Related CSAM, Violence:

State California
Type City
Population 126723
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