Yakima County, WA

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

Yakima County is a county in Central Washington state of approximately 257,000 residents. The county seat and largest city is Yakima, WA. Prostitution has been described by residents and businesses as a substantial problem in the county for decades, and more recently sex trafficking has been uncovered in several investigations. The county has also documented several cases of targeted assaults, robberies, and murders of prostituted women in the county. Among the more serious crimes associated with the county’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 1994, police uncovered child sex trafficking operation in which sex traffickers/pimps were sexually exploiting teenage girls in exchange for money in Yakima.

In effort to reduce demand for commercial sex in the county, municipal and county officials have conducted both street-level and web-based reverse sting operations, targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex in the county. The city of Yakima was among the “early adopters” of tactics used to contain the prostitution problem by focusing on consumer-level demand. The first known reverse sting in the city occurred in 1976. Community complaints have played a role in police conducting anti-prostitution operations, including street-level reverse stings. In May 2013, the Yakima Police Department announced it would start releasing the names and photos of arrested sex buyers, and that a list was being readied for release in June, 2013. A list and photos of the first eight male sex buyers was released June 10, 2013.

Law enforcement agencies in Yakima County have also been known to have participated in the FBI’s annual child sex trafficking investigation, Operation Cross Country. For example, in 2015, during OCC IX, one of the sit locations in which operations took place in was the city of Yakima, in which both the Yakima Police Department and the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office participated in the operation. As a result of OCC IX, eleven sex buyers were arrested in Washington state, one of which was arrested in Yakima on charges of promoting prostitution.

In December 2018, thirteen male sex buyers, including four from Yakima County, were charged with attempted child sex crimes in an undercover online sting operation led by the Washington State Patrol. The men were arrested as part of “Operation Net Nanny,” where undercover officers pose as children online and communicate with individuals interested in sexually exploiting children in exchange for money. According to reports, the investigation took place over a five-day period, in which each of the men had traveled to a predetermined location to meet with undercover officers posing as minors. Upon their arrival, the men were arrested. Charges included commercial sexual abuse of a minor, communication with a minor for immoral purposes, involving a minor in unlawful controlled substance transaction, and attempted first-degree rape of a child. The operation was run by the WSP’s Missing and Exploited Children task force. In addition to the Yakima Police Department, other participating agencies included the Law Enforcement Against Drugs task force from Yakima, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ellensburg Police Department.

In addition to reverse sting operations, sex buyers have been arrested in Yakima County through alternative investigations and residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, in 2002, a five-month investigation resulted in the arrest of five men on drug and prostitution charges during a raid at a local residence. Two of the arrested offenders were arrested on charges of promoting prostitution. The investigation was initiated after police received calls from numerous concerned residents regarding suspected prostitution activity occurring at the residence. Police conducted surveillance on the home and discovered that its’ residents were promoting prostitution and dealing drugs within the home. After obtaining a search warrant, police executed a raid that resulted in the five arrests. At the time of reports, the investigation was ongoing and police stated that two other individuals were awaiting charges and six were awaiting interviews regarding their suspected participation in the illicit activity. The SPD released the identities of arrested offenders to local media outlets for publication. In 2020, Yakima police were called to an apartment for a 15-year-old girl who was experiencing opioid withdrawal. According to the affidavit, the girl told police that her bother had got her addicted to pain killers, and she had started engaging in commercial sex for drug money. When the girl’s mother found out that she had been engaging in commercial sex, the mother began going with her daughter to meet sex buyers “to make sure she did it safely.” The mother would sometimes set up the appointments and the price, and drive her daughter to locations. The money would go toward buying drugs and household necessities. The girl reportedly told police that the mother also engaged in commercial sex. Police were able to use the girl’s phone to identify and locate the male sex buyers that had solicited sex from the minor. As a result of the investigation, 10 male sex buyers were arrested. Seven were charged with suspected commercial sex abuse of a minor and were released as part of a pretrial diversion program. The remaining three offenders were held on bails ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 on charges including commercial sex abuse of a minor, child rape, communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. The identities of arrested sex buyers were released by police to local media outlets.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

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 Washington
Type County
Population 256728
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