Yakima, WA

Tactics Used

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

Yakima is a city of roughly 80,000 residents in central Washington.  Prostitution has been described by residents and businesses as a substantial local problem for decades, and more recently sex trafficking has been uncovered in several investigations.  The city has also documented several cases of targeted assaults, robberies and murders of prostituted women working in Yakima. In 1994, police uncovered what was then called “a prostitution ring involving teenage girls” (Ellensburg Daily Record, 1994).  This would now be referred to – and classified by law – as sex trafficking involving juvenile victims.  In 2012, Yakima was the site of operations associated with the FBI’s national “Operation Lost Innocence” program, in which six juvenile victims of sex trafficking were rescued.

The city 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 April 2013, the city announced a new municipal ordinance establishing SOAP orders.  The new law works by banning convicted johns (as well as prostituted persons) from areas of the city known for commercial sex sales.  People caught violating a SOAP order can be arrested on the spot for a misdemeanor, and may be jailed for up to 90 days and/or be forced to pay a fine of up to $1,000.  A news report the following month (May 14, 2013) discussed enforcement including the arrest of 12 prostituted persons (no reference was made to the SOAP order enforcement being applied to sex buyers). 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 8 men was released June 10, 2013.

In December, 2018, thirteen men, including four from Yakima County, were charged with attempted child sex crimes in an undercover online sting operation overseen 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 people who are interested in having sex with children, according to a Washington State Patrol news release. Over a five-day period, the men traveled to what they thought would be a meeting to have sex with a child, but instead were arrested by detectives.Charges faced by the men 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.  Assisting the WSP were Yakima police, the Law Enforcement Against Drugs task force from Yakima, Kittitas County sheriff’s office, and Ellensburg police.


Key Partners

  • Yakima Police Department
  • FBI
  • Washington State Patrol
    • Missing and Exploited Children Task Force
  • Yakima Law Enforcement Against Drugs Task Force

Key Sources

State Washington
Type City
Population 82974
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