Visalia, CA

Tactics Used

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

Visalia is a city in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of California, and has a population of roughly 120,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as problems within the city.  Residents have complained to police about prostitution in certain neighborhoods, and in response to their numerous concerns, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex since 1988.

The Visalia Police Department has conducted street-level and web-based reverse stings, and released the identities of the men arrested. For example, in February, 2019 detectives with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with investigators from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, Visalia Police Department, Tulare County Human Trafficking Task Force and Madera County Sheriff’s Office, conducted two undercover operations. Detectives set up fictitious advertisements on known prostitution sites and searched the dark web for potential human trafficking victims.  Nearly 40 men contacted the decoy, and four were arrested after appearing at arranged locations and solicited the undercover officer. During this operation, detectives also tried to find and rescue human trafficking victims on the dark web. Detectives rescued two adult females, one of which was believed to be a human trafficking victim who through force, fear and/or coercion was trafficked for sex. Personnel with Tulare County Family Services responded to the scene and provided the victims with help.

In early November 2020, two multi-agency reverse stings produced the arrests of 13 sex buyers throughout Visalia, and their identities were disclosed in news releases.  The Visalia Police Department Special Enforcement Unit, narcotics detectives, TARGET Task-Force, Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and the Tulare Police Department teamed to make the arrests.  Police didn’t release details on how they lured the sex buyers, but said 13 were arrested.  The men were booked and released on the misdemeanor charge that “typically carries a small fine and community service hours.”

Key Partners

  • Merced Police Department
  • Visalia Police Department
  • Tulare County Sheriff’s Department

Key Sources

Reverse Stings and Shaming:

Web-Based Reverse Stings and Shaming:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Limits on Sex Stores Get OK; Visalia Ordinance Proposal Goes to the City Council Next”, Fresno Bee, May 14 1999.
  • “Massage Parlor Worker Sentenced for Solicitation”, Porterville Recorder, May 3 2012.
State California
Type City
Population 118603
Location
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