Ventura 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

Ventura County is located north of Los Angeles, and includes coastal areas. The county has a population of approximately 840,000, and contains the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, which have well-documented problems with sex trafficking and prostitution and the wide range of crimes that always accompany the sex trade. For example, in January, 2021, a weeklong investigation into human trafficking activity throughout Ventura County resulted in five arrests, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.  The investigation, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild, was conducted by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The probe was intended to rescue victims from possible exploitation and arrest those involved with facilitating human trafficking. It involved investigators visiting locations known to have human trafficking activity and setting up sting operations, according to authorities. Five suspects were arrested on various criminal charges associated with human trafficking, including pimping or pandering, solicitation of prostitution and violations involving firearms and narcotics. Detectives also served compliance checks at massage parlors in the county with Ventura County Code Enforcement and flagged multiple violations with possible human trafficking activity.

The city of Ventura is also one of the locations in which a serial rapist and murderer specifically targeted women engaged in prostitution: the famous “Night Stalker” case resulting in at least 10 murders linked using DNA evidence, active from 1979 through the 1980s (the perpetrator has never been identified). Local sex trafficking cases have also involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to as “child pornography” in legal codes).  For example, in September, 2022, a 41-year-old Thousand Oaks man was arrested and charged with a range of sex crimes, including, human trafficking, possessing “child pornography,” and misdemeanor child-luring. Prosecutors also filed special allegations based on prior convictions of felony unlawful sex with a minor in 2006 and human trafficking of a minor in 2017. The charges stem from the man’s purported activity across Ventura County over the prior eight years, such as allegedly coercing a woman to perform commercial sex acts in Oxnard, sending sexually suggestive messages to a 14-year-old girl in Simi Valley, and possessing sexually explicit photographs (CSAM) of young children on at least three separate occasions.

To combat persistent and longstanding problems with commercial sex and sex trafficking, Ventura county law enforcement agencies, and collaborations among municipal police departments, have employed demand reduction tactics.  For example, the Ventura Police Department has conducted reverse stings periodically since at least 1989, which were prosecuted by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. E.g., in 1998 the Ventura Police Department placed a woman undercover officer who loitered on a two block stretch of Thompson Boulevard. Within 35 minutes, they had arrested six males – ranging from a 16-year-old boy to a 77-year-old man – who had attempted to buy sex. In April 2016, Oxnard police arrested 14 men in a multi-agency reverse sting aimed at the “demand” side of prostitution. Meetings between the johns and a female undercover officer, were initiated through an ad posted by police on the website, and men were arrested when they appeared at an undisclosed location within the city of Oxnard and offered to buy sex.  The photos and other identifiers of the arrested men were publicly released. In January 2018, six men were arrested during a web-based reverse sting. The operation consisted of detectives posting online advertisements on sites used for prostitution; those who contacted the listed number and agreed to exchange money for sex were instructed by an undercover officer to arrive at a Ventura hotel, where they were taken into custody. Arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution were three Oxnard residents, one from Thousand Oaks, one from Oak View; and one from Ventura. The sting was led by the Ventura Police Department and the Ventura County Human Trafficking Enforcement Team, and was assisted by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force’s Operation Reclaim & Rebuild.

Key Partners

  • Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
  • Ventura Police Department
  • Ventura County Human Trafficking Enforcement Team
  • Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force’s Operation Reclaim & Rebuild
  • Oxnard Police Department
  • Simi Valley Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Auto Seizure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking, Prostitution, Related Violence, CSAM, Other Offenses:

State California
Type County
Population 839784
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