Yakima, 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 is a city of close to 100,000 residents in Central Washington, and is the county seat of Yakima County, WA. 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 in the county. Among the more serious crimes associated with the area’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.

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 sex buyers (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. 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.

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.

Sex buyers have also been apprehended as the result of alternative investigations or from residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, 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, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

SOAP Orders:

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 City
Population 96578
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