SFPD goes undercover to curb prostitution in Mission District

San Francisco police are going undercover as sex workers to catch suspected "Johns" on Capp Street. 

In a sweep Wednesday night, SFPD cited seven people between the ages of 26 – 55. Four of the "Johns" live in San Francisco, two are from Half Moon Bay, and one is from Palo Alto

"We have a prostitution problem. We hear the neighbors loud and clear about what’s happening, and we are taking action," said SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar. 

In Wednesday’s sting, a female police officer posed as a sex worker. It only took about 13 minutes before the first "John" approached the undercover officer to solicit sex.

"If you go to Capp Street you never know if it’s a female officer who is standing on a corner posing as a sex worker for the purposes of arresting those who are coming down there to commit that crime," said Lazar.

Neighbors we talked to said enforcement is long overdue. They said there are often 50 or more sex workers lining their street, with cars clogging the road, and music blaring into the early morning hours. They hope this crackdown sends a message that Capp Street is not a red-light district.

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"I think people need to know Capp Street is a place where you will be held accountable if you come here looking for sex workers," said one resident. 

Last week, the city put up barriers on Capp Street between 19th and 22nd streets to attempt to curb this type of illegal activity. Neighbors said the roadblocks have been effective. 

"We are finally able to sleep at night. We see far fewer cars. We see kids out after work before dinner," said one resident. 

"Last night I was able to take a walk and take a breather," said neighbor Monica Pereira. "I felt safe. I walked alone. I did not see one individual working on the street."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Neighbors complain of 'rampant prostitution,' illegal activity on San Francisco's Capp Street

Police said they will continue doing enforcement operations using decoys. Residents want officers to go after the pimps as well. The roadblocks are only temporary, and Pereira worries the problems will eventually return. 

"The sooner the barriers go away, and the police go away, the sex workers come back. Then the pimps and the Johns."

Police did not arrest any of the pimps or cite any of the sex workers. Lazar said many of the sex workers are likely being trafficked, so they are going to focus on resources to help them get out of that type of lifestyle.

For survivors in need of help, contact San Francisco Bay Area Human Trafficking 24-hour confidential hotline: (415) 907-9911.