Baltimore, MD

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, with over 600,000 residents. Street prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the city the for decades, and dozens of cases of sex trafficking and prostitution-related violence have been reported in the area. To address the issue, the Baltimore Police Department has elaborated an aggressive and comprehensive strategy that targets sex buyers as well as sellers. Officers from the department were among the first in the nation to utilize street-level reverse stings in the mid-1970s. Street-level and web-based operations are now routinely conducted, using teams of undercover female officers as decoys.

In 1982, city officials instituted a policy allowing law enforcement to mail letters to the homes of arrested johns 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 is now used by police in a variety of circumstances. Most notably, officers began preemptively sending letters to the homes of individuals seen driving in areas known for commercial sex sales in late 2011. When police noted the same vehicles circling the Charles Village area, the 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 has at times released the names of those arrested for prostitution-related offenses, it does not have a formal policy of shaming. In fact, officers and public officials have 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 currently operates a similarly-oriented and highly-praised diversion program for prostituted women (know as the Specialized Prostitution Diversion Program).


Key Sources

National Assessment Survey & Interview

Reverse Stings:


Auto Seizure:

Neighborhood Action:

Proposed John School:


Proposed SOAP Orders:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Maryland
Type City
Population 602495
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