Columbia is a city of approximately 100,000 residents in the Baltimore metropolitan area, in Howard County. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. In April 2018, a web-based reverse sting led to the arrest of 11 men who reportedly solicited prostitution from an undercover police investigator. In an effort to deter prostitution and human trafficking, the Howard County Police Department placed decoy ads on the website Backpage.com. The men called the number in the ad and spoke with an undercover female officer who provided a meeting location at the request of the suspects. When the suspects met at a hotel in Columbia and offered money for sex, they were arrested and charged for solicitation of prostitution and disorderly conduct. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were released to news outlets.
In November, 2018, Howard County detectives posted ads on websites known for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking transactions. Men who called the posted number spoke with an undercover officer who provided a location when the men requested a meeting. After the men arrived at the hotel in Columbia and offered money for sex acts, they were arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution and disorderly conduct. The arrests occurred at a hotel in the 8800 block of 100 Parkway in Columbia. In June 2019, a similar web-based operation produced the arrests of three sex buyers at a hotel in the same area.
- Howard County Police Department
Web-based Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- https://www.abc2news.com/news/crime-checker/howard-county-crime/11-would-be-johns-arrested-in-prostitution-operation (April 2018)
- http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-11-arrested-prostitution-sting-20180406-story.html (April 2018)
- http://www.wbal.com/article/11-men-arrested-in-anti-prostitution-operation (April 2018)
- https://patch.com/11-charged-prostitution-sting-columbia (April 2018)
- http://foxbaltimore.com/11-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-at-columbia-hotel (April 2018)
- http://washington.cbslocal.com/md-police-arrest-11-men-for-soliciting-prostitution-in-undercover-operation/ (April 2018)
- https://patch.com/columbia-prostitution-sting-nets-7-arrests-howard-county-police (November 2018)
- https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/prostitution-sting-howard-county-20181127-story.html (November 2018)
- https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/detectives-arrest-seven-men-in-prostitution-operation/ (November 2018)
- https://foxbaltimore.com/news/local/seven-men-charged-with-prostitution-in-columbia-sting-operation (November 2018)
- https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/three-men-arrested-in-columbia-prostitution-operation/ (June 2019)