Santa Monica, 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 Monica is a beachfront city located directly West of Los Angeles, within Los Angeles County, CA, and has a population of approximately 91,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as substantial problems in the city, and generated residential complaints to police. The city has also faced significant issues regarding illicit massage businesses and child sex trafficking. For example, in 1986, the City Council passed an ordinance that imposed stricter regulations on massage businesses including license and education requirements for masseuses and massage businesses. The ordinance was passed in response to residential complaints regarding the increased amount of prostitution activity occurring within massage businesses in the city. The problem has existed in Santa Monica for years and has proven resistant to enforcement. According to a staff report, in 2005, there were 51 businesses licensed for massage, with 785 permitted massage technicians. Police and prosecutors estimated 25 percent of those businesses engage in unlawful operations, namely prostitution and sex trafficking. In 2016, the Santa Monica Police Department in coordination with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) implemented a public awareness campaign. The campaign focused on identifying areas known for prostitution and sex trafficking activity, to then strategically place brochures and flyers containing information about how to spot and report possible prostitution and sex trafficking, in hopes of increasing witness and victim reporting.

In response to such concerns, the Santa Monica Police Department has targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex by conducting street-level reverse stings since 2003 and web-based reverse stings since 2005, which together garnered over 120 arrests by 2010. Santa Monica was also one of the first cities in the United States to deploy SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) Orders, which were implemented in 1990. Additionally, reports of a john school have been documented in the city. The program was in operation as of 2012, however it is unclear whether the program is still operating today. Reports of neighborhood action have also been documented. For example, business owners have been known to take and submit photo and video evidence of prostitution and its ancillary crimes to police. Residents hope that by documents prostitution and related activity, police will increase the number of investigations and patrols that are conducted within their neighborhoods.

The Santa Monica Police Department’s Standards of Conduct prohibits officers from engaging in commercial sexual activity at any time during their employment, regardless of being on and/or off duty. Any violation of this rule will result in immediate disciplinary action, such as an officer’s employment being suspended and/or terminated.

Key Sources

Santa Monica PD Standards of Conduct (2021)

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Neighborhood Action:

Public Education:

State California
Type City
Population 91577
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