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Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, with over 600,000 residents. Street prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the city for decades. This activity, as well as indoor prostitution, which is facilitated online, and the problems and ancillary crimes they generate, result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking and related violence. For example, in March 2021, a man was charged with the death of two women, at least one of whom was a prostituted woman whom he had arranged to meet for sex and then strangled to death.
In September 2022, Special Agents from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore field office arrested several individuals suspected of running a sex trafficking enterprise. The suspects were arrested and charged with the use of interstate facilities, in the aid of a racketeering enterprise, and for their involvement in the “Triple X Party Kings”, a suspected Maryland-based sex-trafficking enterprise. One defendant has additionally been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and transporting an individual to engage in prostitution. The trio allegedly used the enterprise to “promote, solicit, entice, coerce, and persuade” adult and minor females to be exploited in commercial sex. They allegedly recruited many of their victims through social media sites and through a network of previously recruited female victims.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Baltimore Police Department had pursued an aggressive and comprehensive strategy that targeted sex buyers, as well as those who are sexually exploited, and their pimps and traffickers. Officers from the department were among the first in the nation to utilize street-level reverse stings in the mid-1970s. For more than four decades, street-level and web-based operations were routinely conducted, using teams of undercover female officers as decoys, each backed by support teams of uniformed law enforcement personnel.
The last known – and possibly final – reverse sting operation in the city occurred in November 2019. In early 2020, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office made a series of announcements about temporarily adopting a policy of full decriminalization of prostitution (as well as other misdemeanors) during the Covid pandemic, stating that arrest warrants were dismissed, prisoners released for hundreds of cases, and the office would not prosecute prostitution charges. In March 2021, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office announced that the policy of full decriminalization of prostitution had been permanently adopted. Since these announcements, there has been no indication that Baltimore police will be conducting reverse stings, or any other prostitution demand reduction operations, since arrests on prostitution charges involving adults (buying, selling, and pimping) would not be prosecuted. In 2022, prostitution and street crimes had escalated dramatically, and the prosecutor who adopted the permissive tactics was voted out of office.
Demand Reduction Tactics Used Prior to 2020:
In 1982, city officials instituted a policy allowing law enforcement to mail letters to the homes of arrested sex buyers notifying family members and other residents that the individual was caught soliciting, and warning the offender of the potential health risks associated with buying sex. While the policy was initially used as a diversion option for first-time offenders (allowing them to avoid formal charges), it was later used by police in a variety of circumstances. For example, in late 2011 officers sent letters to the homes of individuals seen driving in areas known for commercial sex activity, but without arresting or charging men with violating prostitution laws. When police noted the same vehicles circling the Charles Village area, they wrote down the individuals’ license plates. A letter was then mailed to the address attached to the vehicle’s registration, notifying the reader that police had seen the car idling in areas known for prostitution.
While the BPD had at times released the names of those arrested for prostitution-related offenses, it did not have a formal policy of identity disclosure. In fact, officers and public officials had made repeated attempts to engage arrestees in meaningful dialogue about the personal and social consequences of prostitution. Between 2007 and 2009, the Baltimore Health Department researched and developed the beginnings of a “john school program” (dubbed RESPECT). Officials created a curriculum (with agendas and other educational material), and drafted memoranda of understanding outlining participants’ roles and responsibilities. Though RESPECT did not ultimately receive the final approval necessary to launch, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office had operated a similarly-oriented diversion program for prostituted women (known as the Specialized Prostitution Diversion Program).
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in October 2016, the Executive Director of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) was caught in one of his colleagues’ own undercover prostitution stings. The 71-year-old was charged with soliciting prostitution. The man became head of the MCPA following a 30-plus year career as a Maryland state trooper, and seven years as head of the Maryland Transit Authority. The man reportedly denied the solicitation allegation, but then resigned from the MCPA. He had been arrested after approaching an undercover vice officer in an outdoor area of southeast Baltimore known for prostitution. The undercover officer cited the man and said he would receive a summons for arraignment at a later date.
National Assessment Survey & Interview
Full Decriminalization of Prostitution via Prosecution Policy:
- https://www.wmar2news.com/baltimore-states-attorney-mosby-orders-staff-to-stop-prosecuting-drug-possession-prostitution-other-crimes-amid-coronavirus (2020)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-md-ci-cr-mosby-prisoner-release (2020)
- https://foxbaltimore.com/baltimores-top-prosecutor-drops-nearly-600-arrest-warrants (2020)
- https://www.wbaltv.com/baltimore-state-s-attorney-marilyn-mosby-announces-586-warrants-related-to-minor-offenses-eliminated (2020)
- https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/baltimore-city-states-attorney-marilyn-mosby-eliminates-warrants/ (2020)
- https://wtop.com/commission-to-decriminalize-md-seeks-serious-transformation-of-justice-system/ (2020)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-ed-rr-mosby-states-attorney-letter (2020)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/arrests of sex workers helps nobody (2020)
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/baltimore-reducing-prosecutions/ (2021)
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/baltimore-crime-mosby-misdemeanors (2021)
- https://foxbaltimore.com/mosby-city-council-hearing (2021)
- “Customers of Prostitutes Face Arrest”, Baltimore Sun, March 27 1976.
- “Prostitution Unit Is Expanded to Mt. Royal Area”, Baltimore Sun, April 15 1976.
- “B.G. & E. Officer Gets Probation”, Baltimore Sun, April 21 1976.
- “Arrests of Men 2-Faced”, Baltimore Sun, May 19 1976.
- “Marty Bass Cleared in Prostitution Case”, Baltimore Sun, January 7 1986.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 6 Arrests”, Baltimore Sun, November 12 1993.
- “77 Men Arrested in Crackdown on Pulaski Highway Sex Traffic”, Baltimore Sun, March 28 1994.
- “Solicitations Arrests Wrap Up 6-Week Undercover Operation in Patterson Park”, Baltimore Sun, September 24 1994.
- “Sex Solicitation Sweep Leads to Arrests of 40 Men in 4 City Neighborhoods”, Baltimore Sun, April 14 1996.
- “Prostitution Sting Operation Nabs 7 on Ritchie Highway”, Baltimore Sun, July 23 1996.
- “Police Say This Customer Is Never Right: ‘Operation Buyer Beware’ Nets Alleged Sex Solicitors”, Baltimore Sun, September 30 1996.
- “Police Arrest 14 Men, 19 Women in Prostitution Sting”, Baltimore Sun, July 10 1999.
- “Police Blotter”, Baltimore Sun, February 4 2002.
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/os-pictures-prostitutionrelated-arrests (2015)
- https://www.baltimorecriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/prostitution-stings-widespread-in-maryland/ (2018)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-md-cr-prostitute-arrest (2019)
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- “‘Dear John’ Note Going to Solicitors”, Baltimore Sun, March 9 1982.
- “‘Dear John’: You’ve Been Spotted”, Baltimore Sun, December 21 2009.
- “Police Aim to Crack Down on Charles Village Prostitution”, North Baltimore Patch, December 14 2011.
- “Mt. Vernon Residents Aim to Oust Area Prostitutes”, Baltimore Sun, September 18 1985.
- “E. Baltimore Group Backs Council Bill to Double Fine on Prostitution Charge”, Baltimore Sun, November 27 1985.
- “Residents Fight to Reverse Toll of ‘Victimless’ Crime”, Baltimore Sun, September 29 2002.
- “Neighbors Want Prostitution Stopped; Jessamy and Police Meet with Bolton Hill Residents”, Baltimore Sun, December 6 2002.
- “A Baltimore Prostitution Website”, Examiner, August 3 2008.
- Pigtown John Watch Official Site
- “Fighting Prostitution, One John at a Time”, Baltimore Sun, December 20 2009.
Proposed John School:
- “Prostitution Court to Focus on Diversionary Tactics”, Baltimore Daily Record, July 13 2009.
- “Also in the Works: Baltimore Plans a School for the Johns”, Baltimore Daily Record, July 15 2009.
- “Effort to List Names Stalls; Few Men Convicted of Solicitation; State Balked at Plan; Mayor Sought Deterrent”, Baltimore Sun, April 19 1999.
- https://data.baltimorecity.gov/2013-Prostitution-Arrests/ (2013)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/os-pictures-prostitutionrelated-arrests- (2015)
Proposed SOAP Orders:
- “2 Council Measures Target Prostitution; Community Service as Penalty Urged”, Baltimore Sun, October 19 1993.
- “Prostitution-Free Zones Attract Little Support”, Baltimore Sun, March 16 1994.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Police Probe Use of Teen-age Girls as Prostitutes”, Baltimore Sun, September 15 1974.
- “Man Charged as Pimp for 14-Year-Old Girl”, Baltimore Sun, March 19 1978.
- “Imported Sex Trade: Officials Say Raid on Suspected Brothel Exposes Human Trafficking from Mexico”, Baltimore Sun, October 25 2008.
- “Ten Baltimore-Area Residents Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Baltimore Sun, October 14 2011.
- “On the Streets of Baltimore, A New Hustle”, Baltimore Sun, November 6 2011.
- “Prostitution Led by Growth of Area Gambling, Police Say”, ABC/WJLA-TV 7, April 26 2013.
- “Former Baltimore Police Officer Indicted on Charges of Running Prostitution Service”, Baltimore Sun, August 16 2013.
- “Former City Firefighter & Another Man Plead Guilty to Sex Trafficking Minor”, WBAL-AM 1090, September 20 2013.
- “Ex-Firefighter, 2nd Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of a Minor in Prostitution Ring”, Columbus Republic, December 17 2013.
- “Former Baltimore Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Operating Prostitution Business”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, January 22 2014.
- “Baltimore County Girl Rescued in FBI Prostitution Sting”, Baltimore Sun, June 23 2014.
- “Two Pimps Sentenced to Prison for Sex Trafficking a Minor”, WBAL-AM 1090, August 29 2014.
- “Baltimore Man Gets 12 Years for Forcing Young Women into Prostitution”, CBS/WJZ-TV 13, October 1 2014.
- “City Man Sentenced for Running Prostitution Scheme; Travis Foote Given 12 Years by Judge”, NBC/WBAL-TV 11, October 1 2014.
- “Man Arrested, Missing Teen Recovered in Human Trafficking Case,” NBC/WBAL-TV 11, April 3 2015.
- “Severn Man Arrested on Human Trafficking Charges,” Annapolis Capital Gazette, April 3 2015.
- “Baltimore Man Indicted on Sex-Trafficking Charges; Man Accused of Sexual Exploitation of Minors,” NBC/WBAL-TV 11, July 17 2015.
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-ed-op-1006-sex-trafficking-marilyn-mosby (2020)
- https://www.justice.gov/maryland-us-attorney-s-office-continues-fight-against-human-trafficking-0 (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/baltimore-man-pleads-guilty-federal-charge-production-child-pornography (2021)
- https://www.ice.gov/hsi-baltimore-apprehends-2-alleged-gang-members-accomplice-breaks-suspected-sex (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Neighbors Irritated by Prostitutes”, Baltimore Sun, August 18 1985.
- “Loitering Bill with $1,000 Fine Targets Brooklyn Park Prostitution”, Baltimore Sun, January 4 1994.
- “Baltimore’s Red Light District Raided”, Prescott Courier, January 16 1994.
- “Prostitution Flourishes on Pulaski Highway”, Baltimore Sun, February 13 1994.
- “Program Offers Hope to Women Seeking to Escape Prostitution”, Baltimore Sun, May 8 1997.
- “Tough Times on Dundalk Avenue: Many Residents in Despair over Prostitution, Despite Initiatives by City Police”, Baltimore Sun, October 9 2002.
- “Shame for the Shameful: Our View – For Besieged Neighborhood, Prostitution Is Hardly a ‘Victimless’ Crime”, Baltimore Sun, December 28 2009.
- “Abell Grant Enables SAO to Double Capacity of Prostitution Diversion Program”, Press Release, Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, October 27 2011.
- https://foxbaltimore.com/illegal-immigrant-sentenced-to-18-months-for-re-entering-the-us-after-being-deported (2020)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Killer Lurked While Boy, 13, Was with Woman; Victim Reportedly Paid Her with Crack”, Baltimore Sun, June 30 1992.
- “Former Firefighter Pleads Guilty to Attacking Two Prostitutes”, Baltimore Sun, December 7 1993.
- “Man Enters Guilty Plea in Attacks”, Baltimore Sun, December 7 1993.
- “Ex-Firefighter Sentenced to 40 Years for Attacks”, Baltimore Sun, February 15 1994.
- “Friend Says Suspect Told Her that He Shot Police Officer”, Baltimore Sun, April 13 1994.
- “Metheny Sentencing Testimony Begins; Jurors Hear Man Confess to Strangling Prostitute”, Baltimore Sun, November 10 1998.
- “Killer Given Death Penalty; Metheny Describes Murder of Woman in Graphic Detail”, Baltimore Sun, November 14 1998.
- “Prostitutes’ Help Sought in Solving Violent Crimes”, Baltimore Sun, November 15 1998.
- “Police Informant Admits Killing Woman”, Baltimore Sun, April 13 1999.
- “Court Voids Death Verdict”, Baltimore Sun, July 25 2000.
- “Police Blotter”, Baltimore Sun, July 16 2003.
- “Talk of Serial Killer Stalking City; Prostitutes Raise Alarm”, Baltimore Sun, November 7 2004.
- “Dual Natures; Sesker Was More than Just a Drug-Addicted Prostitute Murdered on the Streets of Baltimore”, Baltimore City Paper, July 30 2008.
- “Baltimore Police Seek Tips in February Killing”, Baltimore Sun, March 11 2010.
- “Death Sheds Light on Transgendered Community”, Baltimore Sun, April 26 2010.
- “Police Say Transgender Woman Was Killed near Lake Ashburton”, Baltimore Sun, July 17 2014.
- “Baltimore Memorial Service to Honor Slain Trans Women”, Washington Blade, August 13 2014.
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/man-prostitute-strangled-date (2021)