According to a Woodland Police press release, the Woodland Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney’s Office conducted a sting targeting those who would solicit or attempt to buy sex acts.
Basically the police and DA’s office created fictitious advertisements and used them to lure men who responded to them.
The press release describes the operation as follows: “During the course of the operation, 5 male subjects responded to a fictitious advertisement via text message and solicited sex acts with undercover officers. After agreeing to meet with who they thought was a prostitute, each of the men who responded to the advertisement was arrested.”
All of the men arrested were booked at the Yolo County Jail, where they were each charged with Penal Code section 647(b) – solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor.
The release states, “Prostitution and sex trafficking is a pervasive industry that especially exploits women and children. In this illicit trade, women and children are often coerced to live in dangerous and violent conditions. Although viewed as a victimless crime by some, the sex-trafficking industry subjects women and children to a cycle of trauma and degradation that can permanently impact them and their families.”
An article in the Woodland Daily Democrat quotes Woodland PD Sgt. Dallas Hyde saying the same as the press release: “Prostitution and sex trafficking is a pervasive industry that especially exploits women and children. In
this illicit trade, women and children are often coerced to live in dangerous and violent conditions.”
He added, as did the press release, “Although viewed as a victimless crime by some, the sex-trafficking industry subjects women and children to a cycle of trauma and degradation that can permanently impact them and their families.”
Supervisor Matt Rexroad, posting on Facebook, wrote, “Jeff Reisig and his staff are doing great work on this issue. I used to think that this was behavior between two consenting adults but that is not the reality. Most of the time the person being sold is basically a slave.”
The release adds, “The Woodland Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney’s Office will continue to conduct operations designed to identify and arrest those who participate in the prostitution and sex-trafficking industries.”
I don’t dispute the fact that sex trafficking is a serious problem and far from a victimless crime. The question that I have is whether this type of operation does anything but nail a few horny guys who were not seeking to commit crimes and not actually involved in any sex trafficking operation.
While this does not meet the legal definition of entrapment, it is pretty close. It is one thing if you have a sting operation that goes out to a known location for prostitutes and catches men that are going out of their way to attempt to solicit sex with a prostitute. But that is not what is happening here.
You are not catching people who are involved in trafficking sex workers. You are not taking people who are sex workers and getting them off the streets.
Instead, what you are doing is catching a few men who are responding to an ad. Are these people that you are catching actively seeking such ads? Are they going to a place that is known for sex ads? The release did not say and Sgt. Hyde would not disclose where the ad was placed or how long it took for the advertisement to go out before the subjects responded.
Sex trafficking may be a serious crime, but this seems more like nailing targets of opportunity rather than actually combating the serious elements of this deep and complex relationship.
Arresting a few people willing to buy sex if they get the opportunity to do so isn’t targeting this problem – it is generating news and headlines. It isn’t going to solve the problem, it is probably just going to mess up a few people’s marriages and lives.
—David M. Greenwald reporting