Civil Liberties

How Maryland Cops' Plan to Live-Tweet a Prostitution Sting Backfired



On May 1, Maryland's Prince George's County Police Department (PGPD) smugly announced plans to live-tweet an upcoming prostitution sting. "We won't tell you when or where, other than it's somewhere in the county sometime next week," the PGPD said. Well, that sometime was yesterday, though the PGPD ultimately decided not to live-tweet the sting. And making this into an all-around win, all the (critical) publicity the department's plans received wound up deterring any potential prostitution clients from falling for the county's trap. 

Kind of delicious, no? Particularly considering the smarmy hubris the PGPD demonstrated in first announcing the plan, describing it as a "progressive" and "unprecedented" tactic in fighting "the world's oldest profession." The backlash to the PGPD's announcement was swift and widespread, however. Widespread enough, it seems, that no potential johns in PG County were stupid enough to take the police's bait.

In a press release yesterday, the PGPD announced that it had "successfully" conducted the planned sting, albeit without the planned prostitweeting

The event took place over several hours in the southern part of the county. On average, the unit arrests five to 10 johns during similar operations. Today, no johns were arrested.

Obviously I think not arresting people for prostitution is a happier outcome than arresting people, but how do police justify defining zero arrests as a successful sting? Because, see, they prevented people from exchanging money for sex in the county yesterday afternoon. Success is a relative concept, I suppose. Here's how Sergeant Dave Coleman, the officer in charge of the PGPD Vice Intelligence Unit, puts it: 

"I've participated in hundreds of stings, and I've never seen what happened today. By advertising this days ago, we wanted to put johns on notice to not come to Prince George's County. That message was heard loud and clear. We just put a dent in the human trafficking business without making one arrest." 

No, you insufferable, self-congratulatory moron, you did not "put a dent in human trafficking." You did not even put a dent in prostitution. You merely convinced commercial sex clients in PG County to cool it or head elsewhere for a week… Good job on making your job somebody else's problem! But, really, we should probably be celebrating all this as a welcome chapter in prostitution policing. Cops—or whole police departments—too dumb not to brag publicly about their awful entrapment plans do to make it easier for sex workers and clients to avoid arrest.