Vallejo, CA

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Identity Disclosure
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension
Employment Loss
IT Based Tactics

Vallejo is a city of approximately 121,000 residents, situated west of Sacramento in northern California’s Solano County, near Fairfield and Benicia. The city has been known for its robust commercial sex trade for decades.  A wide range of local problems and ancillary crimes associated with prostitution have been documented, such as kidnapping, murder, rape, sex trafficking, and robbery.  For example, in 2013, a woman who was working as a street prostitute was enticed into a stolen car, and then was forced at gunpoint to disrobe.  The man fired the gun in the air to intimidate the victim, and then said he was now her pimp.  In 2006, a man was arrested for the 1993 murder of a woman in Sacramento was linked via DNA evidence to the stabbing murder of a prostituted woman in Vallejo in 1988.  In 2011, three men who engaged a prostituted woman were assaulted and robbed by masked assailants when they went to her apartment.

In 2013, a man was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and repeated rape of a woman lured from Kentucky to Vallejo with promises of a modeling career.  Upon arriving in Vallejo, the woman was told that she would be “working as a prostitute” for the man, which meet the legal definition of sex trafficking through force and coercion.  When she refused, the man physically assaulted her and raped her several times, and refused to let her leave the residence.

In February 2021, VPD agents received information that a 12-year-old girl was forced into prostitution by a man who took her to various places to meet the “clients” who would pay to sexually abuse her. The agents mounted an undercover operation at a motel on Fairgrounds Drive, where the suspect held the girl captive. He was arrested and the girl recovered.

Among the ways in which the community has sought to combat such problems have been demand reduction efforts.  For example, Vallejo was among the first communities in the U.S. to launch organized neighborhood action that specifically focused on demand, in 1980.  Reverse stings were conducted at least as early as 1985, and the identities of arrested sex buyers were publicized. Neighborhood organizations have been active in working with police and conducting independent efforts to combat demand for prostitution.

Since the 2000s, Vallejo has faced financial problems that have created additional challenges in their anti-prostitution efforts.  Due to budget cuts, the police department eliminated its vice unit, and the downsized police department’s remaining resources are stretched so that reverse stings occur less often.  The city has attempted to compensate for reduced resources through creativity and partnerships with community organizations.  Collaboration with other agencies helps to defray expenses.  For example, in June, 2013 the Vallejo Police Department partnered with law enforcement from the California Highway Patrol, Solano County Sheriff’s Office and Solano County Probation Office during Vallejo’s month-long “Operation Goodwill.”  Pursuant to that operation, the team conducted a five-hour reverse sting operation in June 2013, that resulted in the arrest of five sex buyers whose names and ages were released, and whose vehicles were seized and towed.  In February 2020 it was announced that prostitution operation in Vallejo led to the arrest of four suspected “prostitutes,” three male sex buyers, and one man for suspicion of pimping and pandering.

In 2006 a Vallejo Police Department officer and staff from a nonprofit organization – Rosewood House – travelled to San Francisco to observe the First Offender Prostitution Program’s john school, and to meet with program staff.  They recommended that Vallejo adopt a similar model, but reportedly, the District Attorney did not approve of the plan and the city did not move forward on implementing a john school.

ReportJohn.org Program

In April, 2022, it was announced that the city had launched its ReportJohn.org (RJP) program in which community members can report incidents of suspected commercial sex and human trafficking activity by using the new platform. The Vallejo Police Department partnered with the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking to bring the program to Vallejo. ReportJohn.org is an online and mobile reporting system that allows community members to anonymously report vehicles observed in soliciting sex or attempting to engage in illicit sexual activity. The purpose of the program is to reduce illegal commercial sex demand by educating the public on the laws and dangers of human trafficking, targeting sex buyers, increasing communication with the public, and deterring buyers with the issuance of a visibility letter. Individuals suspected of illegal activity may be reported by visiting reportjohn.org. Potential identifying information that can be submitted online include:

  • A photo of the vehicle/suspect.
  • License Plate Number.
  • Time, Date, Location of the suspected offense.
  • Any other relevant information.

Once the report is submitted, the VPD Community Services Section works to review and vet the report. If substantiated, a “visibility letter” is issued to the registered vehicle owner indicating that their vehicle was observed in an area known to have high rates of human trafficking and commercial sex work activity. Suspected offenders are warned of the following consequences if prosecuted:

Subdivision (b) of California Penal Code Section647 makes soliciting sex a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail, not exceeding 6 months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1000.00), or by both. Subdivision (k) of Penal Code Section 647 also authorizes the discretionary punishment of suspending or restricting the driver’s license for up to 6 months pursuant Vehicle Code Section13201.5 for any solicitation violation under subdivision (b) of Penal Code Section 647 that is committed within 1,000 feet of a private residence with the use of a vehicle.

About the program, the Vallejo Chief of Police stated in a news release:

“Our duty as a department is to help protect the most vulnerable members of our community. The ReportJohn.org platform allows us to focus our enforcement efforts and work with our community to remove the demand from our City.”

Key Partners

  • Vallejo Police Department
  • Prostitution Task Force, Vallejo Campaign Against Prostitution
  • Neighborhood organizations
    • Fighting Back Partnership
    • Ohio Street Watchdogs
    • Kentucky Street Watch Owls

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interview

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

“Dear John” Letters, License Suspension:

Cameras:

Neighborhood Action:

“ReportJohn.org” Collaboration of Community and Police:

Proposed John School and Auto Seizure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 121267
Location
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