Prostitution sting operation nets seven arrests in Encinitas

(File photo)

The men were arrested at undisclosed North County locations after looking for sex online; sheriff’s officials also said they recently rescued three trafficking victims

Seven men were arrested Tuesday, Nov. 17, during a sting operation aimed at cracking down on a demand for prostitution in Encinitas, sheriff’s officials said Wednesday, Nov. 18.

During the five-hour operation, deputies chatted up “prospective sex buyers online,” Deputy Sean Zappia said in a statement.

The seven men were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor prostitution-related charges when they showed up at undisclosed locations in the coastal city where they had agreed to meet.

The men, ages 20 to 47, were released with a written promise to appear in court.

Zappia said the Sheriff’s Department is committed to disrupting and dismantling sex trafficking rings operating within the county.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in six endangered runaways are likely victims of sex trafficking.

“The victims to these crimes are often subjected to not only severe forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their trafficker but are also frequently physically and sexually assaulted by those that solicit them for prostitution,” Zappia’s statement said.

In a separate announcement Wednesday, Nov. 18, the Sheriff’s Department said it recently helped rescue two juvenile trafficking victims, and one adult victim, as part of the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force.

The first involved a 17-year-old whose mother told county probation officers that her child might be a trafficking victim, according to Sgt. Jeff Creighton. The second involved a 14-year-old victim who investigators learned of based on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Investigators from the regional task force found evidence that both juveniles were engaging in commercial sex acts in San Diego County hotels, Creighton said. Task force members removed the victims from their situations, set up evaluations with county Child Welfare Services and connected them with human trafficking victim services.

Creighton said the adult victim, who was found during the same investigation into the 14-year-old, was also provided human trafficking victim services.

— David Hernandez is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

— Staff reporter Alex Riggins contributed to this story.


8:15 a.m. Nov. 19, 2020: This story was updated with information about three human trafficking victims found by a regional task force.