Baltimore, MD

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

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.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey & Interview

Full Decriminalization of Prostitution via Prosecution Policy:

Reverse Stings:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Letters:

Auto Seizure:

Neighborhood Action:

Proposed John School:

Identity Disclosure:

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 602274
Location
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