The Illegal Commercial Sex Industry in Alameda County
The illegal sex industry in Alameda County exists in many forms. In addition to the prostitution of individuals on the street and through the Internet, commercial sex also exists in massage parlors and brothels. Due to the criminal nature of the activity, it’s difficult to ascertain a full understanding of how and where sex-buying takes place in the area. Nonetheless, it is believed that prostitution both at the street level and through the internet is the largest phenomenon, followed by massage parlors and then brothels.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is also a particular problem in Alameda County (as it is in other parts of the US). The FBI has estimated that the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the top thirteen cities in the nation where CSEC occurs. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has taken lead in combating CSEC by supporting victims and holding their exploiters accountable for their actions.
So, even though it is difficult to assess the size of the marketplace for commercial sex, we do know that the numbers are shockingly large. On any given Saturday, over 200 ads are placed in the adult services section of Backpage.org. Additionally, prior to being taken down by the FBI, myredbook.com was the most used website in the Bay Area for online prostitution activity, with 100,000 ads in the region posted for prostitution-related services. Of these ads, approximately 83% solicited online acts of prostitution and 12% related to illicit massage services.
Alameda County is recognized as part of a larger movement of individuals who want to engage in the commercial sex industry. Within the state, victims are trafficked up and down the I-5 corridor, which includes cities such as Redding, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego. These women are even trafficked as part of a larger national circuit that includes other cities like Las Vegas, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis, Miami, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle and Portland.
How CEASE Alameda County is addressing the problem
The CEASE Alameda County team, which consists of local prostitution survivors, activists, members of law enforcement, city officials, among other specialists, is targeting the buyers that drive the demand for commercial sex through multiple tactics. CEASE Alameda County is involved in ongoing sting operations, using license plate readers to enforce stay away orders for individuals who are ordered to stay away from areas of prostitution, enforcing court-ordered class for buyers who get caught, shutting down venues of commercial sex, collecting buyer data, and implementing a local billboard public awareness campaign.