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September 20, 2017
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Brothel found

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
August 18, 2017
Rohnert Park Public Safety investigates RP apartments

A Rohnert Park apartment complex was discovered to be the location of a brothel part of a statewide Asian sex trafficking and brothel operation. The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety served two search warrants on two different apartments following a tip from the apartment management and an investigation by RP detectives.

The two brothels were raided during the first week of August after public safety obtained two warrants, according to a Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety press release.

According to the press release, “The investigation began after management from the complex reported that they had evicted the occupants of the two apartments where they found signs that prostitution was occurring and they suspected a third apartment was involved.”

In addition to the tip from management, one of the residents of the same complex reached out to the Public Safety’s Investigations Division, reporting the suspicions of a fourth apartment, which the resident had said that they noticed men frequently coming and going, rarely seeing the occupants come out.

During the investigation, detectives found an ad on various prostitution websites, specifically offering “Asian women for massages and sex acts,” which was discovered to be directly related to the two apartments in question.

As reported, “When the undercover officers arrived at the apartments, both were greeted at the door with woman in lingerie.” The apartments had little furnishings and were “obviously set up for the primary purpose of prostitution.”   

Sgt. Jeff Justice said that while fully operating brothels are uncommon in RP, sex trafficking is common in Rohnert Park, as well as throughout the rest of Sonoma County.

“Brothels are uncommon, it’s not very often we come across something like that, but there’s sex trafficking everywhere and a lot of the sex trafficking and prostitution occurs in motels. People travel around and can set it up for the night or the week. But as far as brothels go, we’ve had reports of suspected brothels before, but in the three and half years I’ve been supervising the investigations division, this is first time we found operating brothels,” Justice said.

The women found in the apartments were later interviewed to determine if they were indeed victims of human trafficking and to try and determine who oversaw the operation.

When asked if any arrests were made in other parts of the state related to the same brothel and trafficking business, Justice said there have been arrests made since brothels and sex trafficking are also common across the entire state.

“There have been arrests made in other jurisdictions as well as other women recovered who were being trafficked and for us, it is still an ongoing investigation into those who had set up the brothels here,” Justice explained. 

As reported in the Sonoma Index Tribune, a report on trafficking conducted by the California Attorney General’s Office found between the years of 2010-2012, there were 1,277 trafficking victims, with over 1,000 arrests made in connection to human trafficking. 

The victims involved in this complex instance were later transported to a safe place by nonprofit advocacy groups, which also focus on helping victims no longer be used by brothels or human traffickers and find other avenues of employment.

Verity, a Sonoma County based sexual assault, crisis and trauma healing center offers similar services to victims of sex trafficking.

Executive Director of the advocacy center, Christina Castillo, said they offer many different forms of assistance for victims, including bringing fresh clothing, food and transportation services. However, Castillo said advocates must be prepared for offering a variety of assistance, as some victims may not feel comfortable or ready for support.

“We have two advocates on staff that their job is solely to work on behalf of survivors of human trafficking, to provide them human advocacy services and resources. And each individual has their own history related to why they are being trafficked and sometimes people are ready for support and others are not, but it’s always offered to them,” Castillo said. “When they (advocates) get called out, there is a plan for those who want to get out of the life, how we will get them out and how we will transport them back home, wherever that might be… There is a lot of compassion and a lot of support for the people.”

In the past year alone, the executive director said advocates have helped support around 45 sex trafficking victims.

Castillo also mentioned there are certain signs that people, especially hotel workers, should look out for regarding reporting trafficking; such as people coming in and out in short half hour to one hour visits, noticing a lot of high volume traffic around the area and other activities that can be a tell-tale sign of trafficking.

“...You may have a guy driving up with three girls that look pretty young in the car or two women, or it could be men. Often, they’ll pay with cash for the room… If you ever have an inkling or are not sure what’s going on and don’t feel good about it, then make the call. It never hurts to make the call and you can be anonymous if you want” Castillo said.   

Prostitution and trafficking charges that suspects can face suspects range from misdemeanors to felonies, according to Justice.

As of now, RP public safety is asking residents to call (707)584-COPS or email crimetips@rpcity.org if there is any suspicion of further trafficking. Castillo also urged people to call the center’s crisis line at (707)545-7273 for any concerns regarding trafficking or sexual assault. 

The name and location of the complex and the suspects involved have not been disclosed yet as the investigation is still ongoing according to Justice. Additionally, in a comment over the phone Justice said that, “no arrests have been made at this time.”