Cecil County, Maryland has a population of roughly 100,000, and its county seat is the city of Elkton (with roughly 15,000 residents). Local prostitution activity generates numerous complaints to police, and these complaints play a role in police devoting the resources to prostitution operations. Sex trafficking is also known to occur in the area. For example, in 2016 an Elkton man was charged with human trafficking and other offenses after police were tipped off by staff at an Ellicott City hotel. The investigaiton found probable cause that the man was trafficking a 21-year-old woman. Officers responded to the tip and found the victim in a hotel room with the suspect. The man advertised the woman on backpage and police believe he took money from her after arranging meetings to sell sex to a number of men. In another case in 2017, a couple was charged with human trafficking of a minor. Detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, along with detectives from the Elkton Police Department, responded to a residence in Elkton, Maryland. The home had been identified by FBI special agents as the location where the suspects were staying, and had been directing some of their trafficking operation. The two were arrested and charged with promoting prostitution involving a person under 18 and human trafficking involving a person under 18 (the girl was 16, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office).
To address problems associated with prostitution and sex trafficking in the city, police have employed tactics that focus on deterring and punishing sex buyers. For example, in 2008, investigators arrested nine men trying to buy sex from undercover officers posing as prostituted women in Elkton during a series of recent sting operations. Four of the suspects were Cecil County residents while the remaining five lived out of state. The identities of the arrested buyers were disclosed in news reports.
In 2017 a web-based reverse sting was conducted. The Maryland State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted a proactive operation targeting the online sexual solicitation of minors. Maryland State Police investigators from the Maryland Computer Crimes Section, Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, arrested a Cecil County man on sexual solicitation related felony charges. During the covert operation the suspect communicated online with an undercover police officer posing as a minor. He made statements expressing a desire to meet the minor and engage in sexual activity. He later traveled to an undisclosed location in Elkton for the encounter, where he was arrested. The suspect, a 28 year old man living in Elkton, was charged with Sexual Solicitation of a law enforcement officer posing as a minor and could face up to ten years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.
In 2016 the Elkton Police Department began using another strategy to crack down on prostitution: a letter sent to the homes of those suspected of buying sex. Police send warning letters to owners of vehicles seen driving in a way that suggests they’re trying to solicit a prostitute. The “Dear John” letters don’t carry any charges and recipients aren’t officially accused of anything, according to the Department’s Facebook post explaining the initiative, but a case number will be generated and details of the vehicle’s sighting will be documented in an incident report. The tactic is intended to be a deterrent, by making the known areas of prostitution activity less attractive to prospective ‘Johns’ or customers. The letters will note when and where the vehicle was observed and inform the driver he was spotted driving “in a manner indicative of attempting to pick up a prostitute.” Police often witness suspicious behavior — such as a known prostitute getting into or out of a vehicle — but don’t have probable cause to make an arrest; the letters provide a means of responding in the absence of expliciti knowledge of the intent to exchange money for sex.
- Elkton Police Department
- Maryland State Police
- Maryland Computer Crimes Section, Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:
“Dear John” Letters Sent to Suspected Sex Buyers:
- http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/06/16/heres-how-elkton-police-are-cracking-down-on-prostitution/ (2016)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://lancasteronline.com/news/prostitution-sweep-nets-including-known-sex-offender/ (2005)
- http://www.cecildaily.com/news/elkton-woman-charged-with-prostitution/ (2009)
- http://www.cecildaily.com/news/local_news/woman-nabbed-in-north-east-area-prostitution-sting-pleads-guilty/ (2015)
- http://news.maryland.gov/msp/child pornography, sex offenses and sex abuse of a minor (2016)
- https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/crime/2016/10/25/wil-cecil-county-delaware (2016)
- https://patch.com/maryland/perryville/cecil-county-man-charged-sex-trafficking (2016)
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/county-prosecutor-faces-sentencing-for-hotel-room-sex-acts-in-view-of-neighboring-tourists/ (2017)
- https://www.mycentraljersey.com/2017/05/11/couple-charged-prostitution-human-trafficking-somerset-county (2017)