Amid pandemic, O.C. task force shifts focus to shutting down sex businesses rather than arresting offenders

Local News

In an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, an Orange County task force is putting aside its usual law enforcement goals to focus on identifying illegal sex operations and shutting them down as quickly as possible.

The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, made up of multiple county agencies, has been checking advertisements online before sending officers to investigate and close down suspected brothels and illegal sex businesses that are still operating.

Instead of conducting their usual, drawn-out investigations and arresting people, law enforcement is just trying to stop the operations immediately.

“What we’ve done is we put aside law enforcement goals and now looked at it as a public health risk,” supervisor of the task force, Sgt. Juan Reveles of the Anaheim Police Department, said.

In one case, investigators say they found a brothel operating in a rental home on a cul-de-sac and contacted the owners to let them know what their tenants were up to.

In the case of stand-alone homes, the city attorney will write a letter about the activity going on and direct the homeowner — who may be unknowingly renting to a brothel manager — to do something about it or face further consequences, according to the task force.

In the case of brothels operating at apartment complexes, investigators are gathering enough information to show the building managers that the activity is taking place.

“Apartments are easier because leasing companies are not going to waste any time once they’re notified by us of the illegal activity that’s occurred at their location. They move very quickly with their three day cease and desist,” Reveles said.

At hotels, the people participating in the activity will get kicked out. And in the case of spas, investigators are giving warnings about violating the state health order.

The goal is not to put people in jail, according to the task force, but to stop the people involved from spreading the virus.

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