Sonoma County, 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

Sonoma County is located on the northern coast of California, and has a population of approximately 486,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as substantial problems in the city, and residents have complained to police about prostitution in certain neighborhoods. Violence and other crimes, such as drugs and physical assault of prostituted women have been reported to occur as a result of the local commercial sex market. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.

In response to such concerns, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has conducted several street-level reverse stings, beginning in 1995. Three operations in 1996, which utilized undercover female officers as decoys, resulted in the arrest of 38 male sex buyers. According to reports, in addition to arrest, sex buyers were required to pay a fine and complete community service hours.

In an operation in February 2014, SCSD deputies said there was a point when it appeared there might not be enough law enforcement personnel on hand to deal with the surge of would-be sex buyers converging on a Rohnert Park motel to meet with decoy prostituted woman. Within a few hours, 11 men were in custody, including one suspected of arriving to have sex with the decoy’s 13-year-old “sister.” The multi-agency sting included officers from Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Rohnert Park police, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security. There also has been growing alarm locally about the escalating trade in sex in a region once deemed secondary to larger metropolitan areas. Investigators say they’ve seen the Santa Rosa/Rohnert Park area become part of an established circuit through which girls and women from Richmond, Oakland, Sacramento and even Las Vegas circulate.


In February 2014, the SCSO adopted new tactics in their attempts to combat demand. Deputies began tracing the phone calls and texts made to the number in their decoy online ad. About 200 “Dear John” letters were then be sent out informing the owners that those numbers have been linked to solicitation for illicit commercial sex and explaining why they should be concerned about the potential connection to human trafficking.

State California
Type County
Population 485887
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