Visalia, 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

Visalia is a city in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of California, and has a population of roughly 143,000. 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 publicly 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.”

In July, 2021, ten male sex buyers were arrested in a web-based reverse sting by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office’s Human Trafficking Unit and officers from the Visalia Police Department.  The photos and other identifiers were again released to news outlets.

In December, 2022, the Visalia and Tulare Police Departments, with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and ATF, conducted an enforcement detail regarding human trafficking and prostitution. Over the course of the two-day investigation, officers arrested four men for solicitation of prostitution. One of the men was also arrested for possession of a controlled substance and several outstanding warrants. All suspects were booked into a detention facility while they awaited trial.

Key Partners

  • Visalia Police Department
    • Special Enforcement Unit
    • Narcotics Unit
  • Merced Police Department
  • Tulare Police Department
  • Tulare County Sheriff’s Department
    • Human Trafficking Unit
  • Tulare County District Attorney’s Office
  • Tulare County Agencies Regional Gun Violence Enforcement Team
  • Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

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 142978
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