Yolo County, 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

Yolo County, officially the County of Yolo, is located in the northern portion of California, and has a population of approximately 217,000 residents. Its county seat is Woodland and the county is included in the Greater Sacramento metropolitan area, located in the Sacramento Valley. Prostitution and sex trafficking are documented problems within the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential complaints to local law enforcement agencies. Among the more serious crimes associated with the county’s commercial sex market have been targeted homicides against prostituted women and commercial sexual exploitation of children. For example, in 2016 the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office assisted in an online operation focused on apprehending individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money or drugs. The operation was conducted over Facebook and Craigslist, and involved officers posting decoy child sex trafficking advertisements and communicating with respondents. The seven-month-long investigation resulted in the arrest of 33 men on charges of attempting to contact a minor to commit a felony, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd acts, attempting lewd acts, and arranging to sell marijuana to a minor, amongst other related charges. Their identities were included in reports by local media outlets.

To address the consumer-level demand that drives all prostitution and sex trafficking, local law enforcement has employed various demand-reduction tactics such as street-level and web-based reverse sting operations. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting street-level reverse stings since 1983, if not earlier. The identities and images of arrested sex buyers are frequently released to local media outlets. In addition, officers often utilize audio and video surveillance during street-level reverse stings to document interactions between undercover officers and suspected sex buyers. For example, in a 1983 street-level reverse sting, the YCSO allowed a local TV reporter to participate in the operation as a decoy prostituted person. All interactions between suspected sex buyers were recorded. The YCSO has often conducted street-level reverse stings with additional agencies such as the West Sacramento Police Department. For example, in a joint operation between the YCSO and the WSPD, over 200 individuals were arrested on charges of sex trafficking/pimping, prostitution, and soliciting prostitution (sex buying). Arrested sex buyers in the county have also been subjected to auto seizure, mandatory STI/AIDS testing and educational classes, and fines. In 2003, the county began placing 3-by-3 signs stating “Prostitution Decoy Operation in Progress,” to warn potential sex buyers of police presence, in an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex in certain areas of the county.

In addition to street-level reverse stings, web-based reverse stings have also been conducted in the county. For example, in October 2017, five male sex buyers were arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution by the Woodland Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. All of the men were arrested after responding to online ads placed by undercover detectives and arranging to meet to purchase sex. Each of the suspects was charged with penal code section 647(b) – solicitation of prostitution — a misdemeanor, and booked at the Yolo County Jail. Undercover officers had sent out the advertisement via a text message. The identities of the suspects were not made immediately available, and police did not reveal any details about the location of the sting in the event that future similar stings might be conducted.

In addition to reverse sting operations, various other demand-reduction tactics have been employed in the county, such as sex buyer arrests and neighborhood action. Officials have arrested local sex buyers as the result of alternative investigations and/or residential complaints to local law enforcement. For example, in 1983, 22 individuals were arrested on gambling, prostitution, and soliciting prostitution charges during a raid at a local business. According to officers, the business was conducting its’ annual “sex show,” in which audience members and prostituted people would engage in commercial sex on stage. Officers released the names of 14 arrested offenders. There have been at least two neighborhood groups in the county that have been active in anti-demand efforts: Operation A.C.T. (A Clean Town) and S.T.O.P. (Sick & Tired of Prostitution). For example, in 1984, members of S.T.O.P attempted to have a judge and convicted sex buyer resign from his position. Although he retained judgeship, the sex buyer was required to pay a fine and complete informal probation, in addition to being told to stay away from two downtown areas known for high rates of prostitution, not to pick up hitchhikers, and not to rent motel rooms under an assumed name.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type County
Population 216986
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