Sonoma County, CA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Sonoma County is located on the northern coast of California, and has a population of approximately 462,000. 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.  Among the problems have been the physical assault of prostituted women.  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 johns.

In an operation in February, 2014, police 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 customers converging on a Rohnert Park motel to meet with a fictional 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.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

  • “Prostitution Sting in SR”, The Press Democrat, January 18 1996.
  • “12 Arrested in ‘John’ Sting”, The Press Democrat, May 17 1996.
  • “Sex Sting in SR Leads to 13 Arrests”, The Press Democrat, June 10 1996.

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Documented homicide and assault of prostituted women in the county:

State California
Type County
Population 462290
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