Santa Cruz, 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 Cruz is a coastal city of just under 63,000 residents, situated along the central California coast, south of San Jose. Local residents and law enforcement have reported numerous problems with prostitution, sex trafficking, and related crimes for at least two decades. Sex trafficked girls have been discovered during anti-prostitution investigations in the city on multiple occasions; in at least one instance, the investigation resulted in the conviction of a city “pimp” for sex trafficking of a minor. Homicides involving both sex buyers and those who are sold for sexual exploitation have also been documented. Other prostitution-related crimes documented in the city include kidnapping, child endangerment, larceny, and drug offenses.

In an effort to address these issues, the Santa Cruz Police Department has conducted periodic street-level reverse stings since the mid 1990s, and have conducted web-based reversals since at least 2008. Local law enforcement and press have noted that residents’ and business owners’ complaints often drive prostitution investigations. To discourage sex buyers from re-offending, arrestees may have their names and other identifying information released to the public, and/or may be required to complete mandatory community service hours.

Key Partners

  • Santa Cruz Police Department
  • Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

  • “Eleven Jailed in Prostitution Sweep,” San Jose Mercury-News, July 28 1994.
  • “Sting Arrests 11 for Soliciting or Offering Sex,” San Jose Mercury-News, July 29 1994.
  • “ACTION Network Director Cited in Police Sting,” San Jose Mercury-News, March 28 1995.
  • “Prostitution Sting Nets 12 Arrests,” San Jose Mercury-News, April 24 1995.
  • “Prostitution Sting Results in 13 Arrests,” San Jose Mercury-News, December 23 1997.
  • “Santa Cruz Prostitute Sting Keeps Police Busy,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 14 2005.
  • “Eight Arrested in Santa Cruz Prostitution Sting,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 24 2014.

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “State Clears Officer of Sexual Misconduct in Searches,” San Jose Mercury-News, February 9 1993.
  • “Guidelines Urged in Arrests for Prostitution; Watchdog Agency Cites Transient’s Complaint,” San Jose Mercury-News, September 8 1995.
  • “Neighbors to Sue Landlord; Drugs, Prostitution Cited at Apartments,” San Jose Mercury-News, December 15 1995.
  • “Prostitution Moves into Downtown,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 11 2002.
  • “Santa Cruz Activist, Woman Are Charged with Promoting Prostitution at Parlor,” San Jose Mercury-News, August 2 1996.
  • “Santa Cruz Endorses International Day of No Prostitution,” Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, October 8 2002.
  • “City Protest of Sex for Sale, Santa Cruz Endorses Day of No Prostitution; Mayor Christopher Krohn Said He Wanted to Call Attention to the ‘False Notion that Human Females Are Commodities to Be Bought and Sold,'” San Jose Mercury News, October 9 2002.
  • “Prostitutes Pulled out of S.C. Neighborhood,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 2 2006.
  • “Police Crack down on Prostitution in Lower Ocean Street Neighborhood,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 6 2009.
  • “Woman Arrested in Prostitution Incident near Lower Ocean Street,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 11 2010.
  • “Group of Women Get Prostitution Charge Warning in Santa Cruz,” Oakland Tribune, February 2 2011.
  • “Two Arrested on Prostitution Charge in Santa Cruz,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, February 15 2011.
  • “Sacramento Woman Arrested for Prostitution, Warrant in Santa Cruz,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 14 2011.
  • “Three Arrested in Lower Ocean Prostitution Sting, Santa Cruz Police Say,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 25 2011.
  • (2016)

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Child Endangerment:

State California
Type City
Population 62864
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