Howard County contains approximately 287,000 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 “johns” 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 netted 13 johns, 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 Backpage.com. Investigators say 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.
- National Assessment Survey
- Reverse Stings:
- “Howard; The Year in Review: The Message and the Massage”, Baltimore Sun, December 28 1995.
- “Howard Operation Nets Prostitution and Drug Arrests”, Baltimore Sun, July 22 2006.
- “Crime Watch”, Baltimore Sun, September 7 2006.
- “Five Laurel Men Arrested in Latest Prostitution Sting; Howard County Police Have Made 74 Arrests So Far This Year in Similar Operations”, Gaithersburg Gazette, October 8 2009.
- “Howard County Police Detail Prostitution Sting Operations”, Baltimore Sun, December 5 2010.
- “Police Arrest 23 in Tri-County Reverse Prostitution Sting”, Baltimore Sun, September 26 2012.
- http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/04/06/maryland-police-arrest-11-men-prostitution-howard-county (2018)
- https://patch.com/maryland/columbia/columbia-man-arrested-prostitution-sting-police (2018)
- https://wtop.com/howard-county/2019/01/maryland-police-nab-8-men-in-prostitution-sting/ (2019)
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ph-ho-cf-howard-prostitution-sting (2019)
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- http://wjla.com/news/crime/6-men-arrested-in-md-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/07/11/six-men-arrested-for-solicitation-of-prostitution-disorderly-conduct/ (2018)
- http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ph-ho-cf-sting-arrests-0711-story.html (2018)
- https://www.wbal.com/article/406162/124/police-arrest-three-men-in-undercover-prostutution-sting (2019)
- Online Ads Intended to Deter Sex Buyers:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Howard Makes ‘1st’ Sex Arrests”, Baltimore Sun, May 18 1976.
- “Police Use Hotel Medium to Send Massage Message”, Baltimore Sun, May 27 1976.
- “Howard County’s First Prostitution Trial Ends in $250 Fine”, Baltimore Sun, November 18 1976.
- “Hookers Go Modern”, Edmonton Journal, April 2 1980.
- “Prostitutes Take to Roads”, Baltimore Sun, January 4 1981.
- “County Moves Against Sordid Side of Massage Business”, Washington Post, January 6 1994.
- “Massage Parlor Bill Approved”, Baltimore Sun, February 8 1994.
- “Howard County Plans to Drop Charges Against 9 Women in Massage Parlor Case; Changes in Law Needed, Says State’s Attorney”, Baltimore Sun, April 4 1996.
- “Bill Would Prohibit Some Paid Massages”, Baltimore Sun, September 30 1997.
- “Curbing Massage Parlors; Suburban Porn: Targeting Customers May Be Easier than Crafting Legislation”, Baltimore Sun, June 15 1998.
- “Massage Parlors Drop Challenge; Businesses Agree to Send Staff for Training”, Baltimore Sun, July 15 1998.
- “A Long Road to Betterment; Howard County Looks for Ways and Money to Revitalize Route 1”, Washington Post, November 29 1999.
- “Stricter Massage Licenses Pondered”, Baltimore Sun, December 4 2011.
- https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/howard/cng-ho-human-trafficking-arrest (2021)