Howard County, MD

Tactics Used

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

Howard County contains approximately 335,000 residents, and is situated in central Maryland between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The Howard County Police Department (HCPD) frequently conducts reverse stings at specific locations within the county, and for descriptions of HCPD-led stings in Columbia, Elkridge, Jessup, Laurel, and North Laurel, see individual site pages.

Countywide anti-demand efforts began with the HCPD leading its first reverse sting operation in 1990, although it did not adopt reverse sting tactics as a key strategy until 2006. Since their implementation, reverse stings have resulted in dozens of demand-driven arrests– at least 27 sex buyers were apprehended and charged with solicitation in 2012 alone. In 2012, the Howard County Police Department (assisted by force members from Anne Arundel County, the city of Laurel, and the Maryland State Police) collaborated with agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to arrest 23 men attempting to solicit sex.

Because areas of suspected prostitution have been successfully identified through citizen complaints, the Howard County Police Chief asked that community members remain vigilant and continue to report any and all tips to 410-313-STOP. During a web-based reverse sting in 2017, with the arrest occurring at a Laurel hotel, Howard County Police posted ads on websites used by sex buyers with a direct message: “LOOKING FOR A GIRL? POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR YOU. HCPD has zero tolerance for Prostitution and Human Trafficking. If you commit these crimes, you WILL be arrested, prosecuted and your personal information released to the media.”

Similar web-based reversals have also been conducted. For example, an operation in February 2016 arrested 13 sex buyers, and in April 2018, a web-based reverse sting led to the arrest of 11 men who reportedly solicited prostitution. In an effort to deter prostitution and human trafficking, they conducted an undercover operation by placing decoy ads on the website  Investigators said the suspects 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 men met at a hotel in Columbia and offered money for sex, they were arrested and charged for solicitation of prostitution and disorderly conduct. Another web-based reversal in July 2018 produced six arrests. The identities of all those arrested were publicized after each of these operations. A reverse sting in January 2019 resulted in the arrest of eight sex buyers.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey (2012)

Identity Disclosure:

Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Online Ads Intended to Deter Sex Buyers:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Maryland
Type County
Population 334529
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