Escondido Police have just announced the arrests of five men who approached undercover operatives to try to buy sex at downtown motels.
The sting targeting individuals soliciting women for the purpose of prostitution occurred on Friday, Sept. 25 around the motel district in central city, according to Escondido Police Lt. Greg Kogler.
As a result of this enforcement effort, five men approached the undercover personnel and made arrangements to trade money for sex acts,” Kogler said. “These men went to an agreed location where they were contacted and arrested by uniformed law enforcement officers for the violation of California Penal Code section 647(b) (soliciting or agreeing to participate in any act of prostitution); a misdemeanor violation.
Escondido’s motel row area has improved a bit in recent years, but had been known as a long-time magnet for the prostitution trade. Escondido Police periodically stage operations or conduct sweeps. A similar sting operation last year netted eight arrests.
Numerous Yelp reviews online noted prostitution activity as seen by travelers. The primary comments mentioning prostitution spotted nearby were made for Howard Johnson Escondido on W. Washington, Motel 6 on N. Quince Street, Kit Carson Park, Sunset Lounge, Ramada San Marcos and La Quinta Inn San Diego Vista.
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Kogler said. “This illicit activity, like many others, has evolved and now mostly includes young women who are coerced, or otherwise compelled, to participate in the activity. Many of the young women are forced to use highly addictive drugs, suffer physical beatings, and are often gang-raped as their initiation into this modern form of slave-labor.”
A lot of the prostitution in Escondido is directed by criminal gangs or organized crime, Kogler said. Women are seen as re-usable commodities generating significant income for these illicit groups while presenting little risk for the pimps and gains benefitting from the activity, according to Kogler.
This effort, police said, was part of an increasing focus on the Escondido department to address human trafficking. All persons arrested in the operations were to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Those arrested on suspicion of soliciting included Sergio Martinez, 30; Jose Sotelo-Sotelo, 40; Clifford Helbock, 71; Alberto Ibanez, 42; and Joel Taylor, 49. They were transported and booked at the Vista Detention Facility.