|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Elkton is a town of roughly 16,000 residents in Cecil County, Maryland. 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 a hotel. The investigation 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 July, 2021, a woman received an 18-month sentence for her role in a prostitution ring that operated at an Elkton-area spa. Maryland State Police detectives had arrested the defendant and charged her with eight sex trafficking and prostitution offenses.
Local trafficking cases have also involved victimization of children and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography.” For example, 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 years of age). In February, 2021, a local man who ran a prostitution and sex trafficking operation from an Elkton hotel for approximately 10 years pleaded guilty to a federal charge of sex trafficking of a minor. He had posted advertisements of women whom he made available for commercial sexual acts with paying customers. That website was seized by the FBI, in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Maryland State Police. For a time, the offender also operated a different website, where he offered a subscription pornographic service to paying customers. As detailed in a plea agreement, the man admitted that he had sexually abused a victim when she was 14 years old video recorded the assault. Investigators recovered eight separate videos from his electronic devices, each of which had been recorded by the offender and each of which documented the sexual abuse of the minor victim by either the defendant or by another adult man. The man admitted that he was aware of victim’s true age. The man’s sex trafficking business was run almost exclusively out of a hotel located in Elkton. He posted advertisements of women and girls whom he made available for commercial sex with paying customers. The “profiles” of the trafficked and prostituted persons included photographs, descriptions, and fictitious names. The website also listed the cost of prostitution appointments, described services that were available, and allowed customers to post comments. The man also admitted that he had another victim who was sixteen to seventeen years old. The man faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for sex trafficking of a minor.
To address persistent 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 July, 2014, the Elkton Police Department completed a nearly monthlong “reverse” prostitution sting in the downtown area, compiling nine arrests in its duration. An EPD spokesman said that initiative was aimed to deter sex buyers, or men who patronize prostituted persons, from coming to the downtown area, and that, “If we can eliminate demand, then the providers will cease to arrive as well.” A female officer in plain clothes would pose as a prostituted woman on East Main Street and wait for sex buyers to approach her in search of paid sex. Most of the men would circle the block a few times before finally stopping and engaging the officer in a conversation. After all of the necessary elements of the crime were discussed, police would take the individuals into custody and charge them. Only two of the nine arrested men were from Elkton. Their identities were publicly disclosed. The operation was launched in response to reports of criminal activity in that area, and this initiative dovetailed with a recent one targeting drug trafficking.
In 2017 a web-based reverse sting was conducted in Elkton. 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.
Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of investigating allegations against real victims as opposed to the product of sting operations using police decoys. For example, in April, 2023, a Cecil County man faced multiple charges for having a sexual relationship with a minor, as well trespassing on North East High School grounds with a handgun in an attempt to lure another girl to leave with him. The Elkton resident faced charges that include sex with a minor, sex trafficking, rape, sexual solicitation of a minor, and possession of a dangerous weapon on school property, according to a news release by the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators said the charges against the man were related to his sexual abuse of at least one other girl from the age of 13 to 14. Police arrested the man on an outstanding warrant after responding to a call for a disturbance in Elkton, the report states. Sheriff’s Office investigators searched his residence and seized his cellphone, and discovered that there had been monetary offers involved in the case. The man was held at the Cecil County Detention Center without bond. Investigators believed there may be additional victims in the case.
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 sex buyers. 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 explicit 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
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
Street-Level Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/elkton-man-charged-with-sexually-assaulting-a-minor-and-related-charges (2023)
- https://www.wmar2news.com/local/armed-elkton-man-allegedly-tried-luring-14-year-old-girl-from-school (2023)
“Dear John” Letters Sent to Suspected Sex Buyers:
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM & Other Crimes:
- https://lancasteronline.com/prostitution-sweep-nets-including-known-sex-offender/ (2005)
- http://www.cecildaily.com/elkton-woman-charged-with-prostitution/ (2009)
- http://www.cecildaily.com/woman-nabbed-in-north-east-area-prostitution-sting-pleads-guilty/ (2015)
- https://www.facebook.com/elkton-police-charged-five-women-with-prostitution-during-a-recent-sting-operation (2015)
- http://news.maryland.gov/child pornography, sex offenses and sex abuse of a minor (2016)
- https://www.delawareonline.com/wil-cecil-county-delaware (2016)
- https://patch.com/maryland/man-charged-sex-trafficking (2016)
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/county-prosecutor-faces-sentencing-sex-acts-in-view-of-neighboring-tourists/ (2017)
- https://www.mycentraljersey.com/couple-charged-prostitution-human-trafficking-somerset-county (2017)
- https://delawarebusinessnow.com/elkton-man-indicted-prostitution-and-sex-trafficking-of-minor/ (2019)
- https://www.cecildaily.com/woman-gets-18-months-in-elkton-area-spa-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/pimp-pleads-guilty-federal-child-sex-trafficking-charge (2021)
- https://www.nottinghammd.com/maryland-man-sentenced-to-more-than-12-years-in-prison-for-sex-trafficking-of-a-child/ (2023)