Twentynine Palms is a city of about 27,000 residents in San Bernardino County, California, about 30 miles northeast of Palm Springs. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
For example, in June 2015, a female juvenile had been abandoned in the desert in Twentynine Palms. Police were called, and the initial investigation found that she showed signs of human trafficking victimization and was immediately placed in a safe location. Investigators interviewed the victim and identified key persons involved in a sexual exploitation trafficking ring in the Morongo Valley. Officials allege the suspects lured young women from areas as far as Ohio and Texas, promising romantic relationships. Once they arrived, the victims were conditioned and made to work as prostitutes. During a four-month long investigation, several victims were identified, which led to the rescue of three adult victims of human trafficking. In September 2015, authorities served search warrants at six locations in Twentynine Palms and Palm Desert, including hotels, the residences of the suspects and a brothel. In January 2017, additional conspirators turned themselves in to police to face charges of human trafficking of a minor. Two residents of Twentynine Palms pleaded not guilty to charges of human trafficking and exploiting a minor during their arraignment hearing.
Among the efforts to combat prostitution and sex trafficking are initiatives designed to reduce demand for commercial sex. For example, in December 2018, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office arrested four men in an undercover prostitution operation. The men were arrested as a part of an in-call motel “John” operation conducted by deputies and the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force. Part of the operation featured undercover officers posing as prostitutes through online advertisements and deployed at a local motel to target purchasers (Johns). The undercover officers were contacted and solicited for acts of prostitution at a 72000 Block of Hwy 62 in Twentynine Palms by several male suspects. Upon their arrival at the location, the suspects were taken into custody. All four suspects were transported and booked at the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station for violation of PC 647(b)(2)- (Sex Buyer) Solicitation for Prostitution. The San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force is staffed by investigators from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, San Bernardino Police Department, Ontario Police Department, San Bernardino Unified School District Police, California State Parole, Office of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
- Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station
- San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force
- San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office
- San Bernardino Police Department
- Ontario Police Department
- San Bernardino Unified School District Police
- California State Parole
- Office of Homeland Security
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- https://www.kesq.com/news/four-arrested-in-twentynine-palms-undercover-prostitution-bust/911735426 (2018)
- https://www.facebook.com/KESQNewsChannel3/posts/ (2018)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Region
- “Internet Prostitution Sting Nets 14 Arrests, and One Teen Girl”, San Bernardino Sun, May 21 2009.
- “Two SB Teen Girls Arrested for Prostitution”, San Bernardino Sun, December 2 2009.
- “Police Seeking Accomplices in Teen Prostitution Case”, San Bernardino Sun, December 3 2009.
- “Innocence Lost: SB County Goes to the Front Lines to Tackle Issue”, San Bernardino Sun, May 1 2010.
- “Public Role Key to Reducing Child Prostitution”, San Bernardino Sun, May 1 2010.
- “SAN BERNARDINO: Pair Linked to Prostitution Ring, Police Say”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, June 7 2011.
- “SAN BERNARDINO: Family Counselor Accused of Pimping Teen”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, November 15 2012.
- “District Attorney’s Film Sheds Light on Human Sex Trafficking in San Bernardino County”, San Bernardino Sun, January 17 2013.
- “Here’s More of the Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in S.B. County”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 18 2013.
- “San Bernardino County DA Strengthens War Against Child Sex Trafficking”, San Bernardino Sun, January 18 2013.
- “Gangs Increasing Presence in Human Sex Trafficking in San Bernardino County”, San Bernardino Sun, January 27 2013.
- “San Bernardino Man Will Stand Trial in Child Prostitution Case”, San Bernardino Sun, August 20 2013.
- “County Works to Combat Sex Trafficking”, Yucca Valley Hi-Desert Star, March 11 2014.
- “Los Angeles Man Convicted of Forcing Girl into Prostitution in San Bernardino”, San Bernardino Sun, May 30 2014.
- “Hemet Couple Accused of Forcing Teenage Girl into Prostitution”, Los Angeles Times, June 19 2014.
- “Nationwide Human Trafficking Rescues Two Girls in San Bernardino”, San Bernardino Sun, June 21 2014.
- “Man Arrested after Allegedly Forcing Teen Girl into Prostitution in San Bernardino”, KTLA-TV 5, August 2 2014.
- “Couple Accused of Human Trafficking Virginia Child in San Bernardino,” San Bernardino Sun, February 11 2016.
- “Test Law OK’d”, Oxnard Press-Courier, September 21 1982.
- “San Bernardino Case May Redefine Prostitution”, Contra Costa Times, June 20 2000.
- “Opinion: Johns Should Be Targets in Prostitution Fight”, San Bernardino Sun, May 2 2011.
- “SAN BERNARDINO: Police Chief Looks to Public for Help”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, February 7 2012.
- “SAN BERNARDINO: ‘Street Team’ Aims to Help Prostitutes”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 30 2013.
- “New Downtown Shelter in San Bernardino Helps Victims of Human Trafficking, Prostitution”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, September 19 2013.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: