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Temecula is a city of about 111,000 residents, located near Lake Elsinore and Murrieta in Riverside County, California. Residents and local law enforcement have reported problems related to prostitution (particularly indoor prostitution)and sex trafficking in the city. Temecula has also served as the operating base for a serial rapist of prostituted women 2012-2013. In 2008, four individuals were arrested and charged with conspiracy to kill a 16-year-old prostituted girl. Those involved were said to have planned to kill the girl after it was revealed she had “cooperated with investigators in a pandering case” against one of the perpetrators (who had previously acted as her pimp/trafficker).
In early April 2014, the Temecula Police Department (TPD) conducted an anti-prostitution detail targeting sex male buyers in “various locations throughout the city.” Seven men were arrested as a result; all had their names and arrest photos released to the public. In a statement to the press in the days following the operation, the TPD reported they “will continue to conduct operations in the city to concentrate on solicitation of prostitution and the men who seek their services… [and is] dedicated to maintaining a high quality of life and encourages citizens to report any suspicious activity they observe.”
In May 2014, the TPD conducted a web-based reverse sting, resulting in the arrest of five sex buyers, whose names and other information were publicly released. Officers assigned to the Temecula Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team targeted men who arranged prostitution via social media websites. The police department said it continues to monitor social media sites in an effort to stop prostitution in the city. In early October 2014, the TPD conducted a second web-based reversal, netting seven buyers in the process. As in the days following the May 2014 operation, the department released the names and mugshots of each of the arrestees to the public.
In January 2017, eighteen suspected sex buyers were arrested in sheriff’s department prostitution sting dubbed ‘Operation Reclaim & Rebuild’ in the cities of Temecula and Riverside. The collaborative undercover operation included the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, the Riverside Police Department’s Vice Unit and the Temecula Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team. Undercover operatives placed ads online on a popular classified advertisement website commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. The officers then responded to prospective customers who replied to the “advertisement” at locations set up in Riverside and Temecula. Mugshots and identifying information were publicly disclosed for all of those arrested.
In September 2017, ten men were arrested in a reverse sting for soliciting prostitution in Temecula. Temecula’s problem-oriented policing team and Riverside County’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force were involved in the enforcement effort, concentrating on catching people who arrange prostitution-related activities via social media websites and then choose a location to meet. The arrests were made in the vicinity of Winchester Road and Jefferson Avenue in the city’s commercial area. No specific meet-up locations were mentioned in police statements or press releases. The arrested men were booked at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in French Valley. They ranged in age from 22 to 59 and lived in Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Winchester and Jurupa Valley.
In August 2020 a joint task force conducted a web-based reverse sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 12 men in Temecula. The purpose of the sting was to focus on reducing the high demand for prostitution in the area. Upon being indicted, the men had their names, charges, and photos released to local media outlets. As in previous operations, decoy advertisements were set up on popular websites and the sex buyers were arrested upon their arrival to a set location.
In January, 2021, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) participated in that year’s Operation Reclaim & Rebuild, which ran for four consecutive days near the end of the month. RCAHT task force members and allied Riverside County law enforcement partners web-based reverse sting operations in the cities of Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Riverside, Palm Desert and Temecula. RCAHT Task Force members placed decoy advertisements on popular classified advertisement web sites commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These RCAHT Task Force members then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location. The operation arrested 61 males and one female for solicitation of prostitution, and one male for soliciting a minor for lewd purposes. The operation was a collaboration that included the La Quinta Special Enforcement Team, Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team, Temecula Special Enforcement Team, Riverside Police Department and Murrieta Police Department. RCAHT Task Force members also made contact with two adult females believed to be victims of sex trafficking. Initial investigations led the task force to believe these subjects were being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against their will. The victims were referred to victim services for assistance as the investigation into their sex trafficking continued. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were listed in RCAHT press releases and some news reports.
In February 2022 a statewide sting operation targeting online prostitution netted hundreds of arrests across California, including 38 Riverside County residents (31 of which were male sex buyers), and nine from the cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula. The four-day-long “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild” was conducted Feb. 7-10 in Riverside County and involved local law enforcement agencies from across the region along with federal investigators from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The local crackdown coincided with Operation Reclaim & Rebuild stings across the state. During the Riverside County law enforcement effort, task force members arrested 31 males and seven females for misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution. The full list of names was publicly disclosed here. To arrest the alleged offenders, officers placed decoy advertisements on websites commonly used for prostitution. Some of the ads targeted sex buyers who were arrested once they arrived at pre-determined meeting locations, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said it first interviewed suspected prostitutes to ensure they were not victims of human trafficking.
In September, 2022, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department conducted a reverse sting in Temecula to “reduce the demand for sex trafficking in the city.” Law enforcement personnel placed decoy posts on popular online classified sites, and when potential sex buyers responded to the ads, an agreement for paid sex was brokered by an undercover deputy. The suspects were then arrested when they arrived at the agreed-upon rendezvous spot. The 10 men were booked on suspicion of misdemeanor soliciting prostitution. During the operation, two women — who were believed to be victims of human trafficking and possibly forced into prostitution against their will — were referred to victim services, according to the sheriff’s department. Deputies from the Southwest Station METRO Team and Community Outreach Resources Engagement Team, in partnership with personnel from the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, participated in the Temecula sting.
In December, 2022, another reverse sting led to the arrest of 14 sex buyers. In addition, one woman “believed to be a victim of human trafficking and possibly being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against her will” was referred to victim services, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, 2023, a series of law enforcement operations throughout Riverside County targeting suspects seeking or engaged in illicit sexual services produced 31 arrests. The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide in “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” with the goal of suppressing the sex trade by targeting sex buyers, as well as identifying and supporting victims, and apprehending sex traffickers. The effort in Riverside County occurred when identical sweeps were taking place in numerous other jurisdictions across California. Operation Reclaim & Rebuild netted a total of 368 arrests and 131 rescues statewide. In Riverside County, arrests were made in Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar. About the operation, a Sergeant with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said,
“The operation targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally, as well as across the state. Often, individuals engaging in acts of prostitution are being forced to commit sexual acts against their will.”
Most of the individuals apprehended in the Riverside County operation were booked on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, though one was additionally taken into custody for alleged pimping, and various services and resources were provided and offered to seven rescued victims. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in a press release by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.
- Temecula Police Department
- Temecula Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team
- Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force
- Riverside Police Department’s Vice Unit
- Temecula Homeless Outreach Team
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Office
- Southwest Station METRO Team
Reverse Stings and Disclosure of Identities:
- “TEMECULA: 7 Men Cited in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 19 2014.
- “Temecula: Police Arrest Seven Men for Solicitation of Prostitution”, Fallbrook Valley News, April 19 2014.
- “Temecula Police Bust Suspected ‘Johns’ Who Sought Out Prostitutes”, Temecula Patch, April 19 2014.
Web-Based Reverse Stings and Disclosure of Identities:
- “5 Men Arrested during Prostitution Sting in Temecula”, Fallbrook Valley News, May 24 2014.
- “Prostitution Sting in Temecula Targeted ‘Johns’, Police Say”, Murrieta Patch, May 24 2014.
- “TEMECULA: 5 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 24 2014.
- “Seven Men Arrested in Temecula ‘Johns’ Sting for Solicitation of Prostitution”, Fallbrook Valley News, October 3 2014.
- “TEMECULA: Eight Men Arrested in Sting for Prostitution Solicitation,” Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 3 2015.
- https://patch.com/temecula/list-18-suspected-johns-nabbed-temecula-riverside-sting (2017)
- https://patch.com/temecula/prostitution-sting-nets-12-johns-temecula (2020)
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/CivicAlerts.2051 (2021)
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/CivicAlerts.2093 (2021)
- https://patch.com/prostitution-sting-arrests-temecula-murrieta-lake-elsinore (2022)
- https://patch.com//temecula-prostitution-sting-nets-10-arrests-murrieta-busted-12 (2022)
- https://patch.com/temecula/14-arrested-temecula-sex-trafficking-sting (2022)
- https://patch.com/california/prostitution-sting-nets-31-arrests-across-riverside-county (2023)
- https://www.riversidesheriff.org/Operation Reclaim and Rebuild 2023 (2023)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Alleged Plan to Kill Local Teen Will Go to Trial”, Temecula Californian, January 6 2007.
- “Trial Opening in Teen Prostitute Plot”, San Diego Union-Tribune, September 29 2008.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Trial Opening in Teen Prostitute Plot”, San Diego Union-Tribune, September 29 2008.
- “Alleged Serial Rapist Behind Bars”, Temecula Patch, August 1 2012.
- “Murrieta Man to Be Arraigned on Charges of Raping Four Prostitutes”, Fallbrook Valley News, August 1 2012.
- “MURRIETA: Women Testify against Man in Serial Rape Case”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 11 2013.
- “Man Accused of Raping Women in Temecula Ordered to Stand Trial”, Temecula Patch, January 18 2013.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Massage Rules Massaged, Tabled”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, June 25 1997.
- “Temecula Council OKs New Massage Regulations: The Rules Have Been Studied and Debated for About Two Years”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, September 29 1999.
- “Massage Parlor Rules Called Too Lax; A Sheriff’s Sergeant Says Temecula’s Ordinance Governing the Businesses Make It More Difficult to Police against Prostitution”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 18 2000.
- “Two Arrested during Prostitution Stings”, Temecula Californian, December 15 2004.
- “From the Police Blotter: Prostitution Arrest at Massage Business”, Fallbrook Valley News, March 31 2005.
- “Police Raids Try to Stem Prostitution; ARRESTS: Operations in Murrieta, Temecula and Lake Elsinore Also Target Some Massage Parlors”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 23 2005.
- “One Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Fallbrook Valley News, September 16 2005.
- “Woman Arrested for Prostitution”, Fallbrook Valley News, May 7 2006.
- “Two Arrested for Prostitution”, Fallbrook Valley News, May 28 2006.
- “Murrieta Woman Arrested for Prostitution”, Fallbrook Valley News, June 5 2006.
- “Temecula Tightens Massage Rule”, Fallbrook Valley News, November 21 2008.
- “TEMECULA: Numerous Violations Spotted in Massage Parlors”, North County Times, February 9 2009.
- “Recent Changes to Temecula’s Massage Rules Praised”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 9 2011.
- “Two Arrests Made for Prostitution at Temecula Massage Parlors”, Fallbrook Valley News, May 18 2012.
- “2 Arrested in Prostitution Sting at Massage Parlors at Temecula”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, May 19 2012.
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