Laurel, MD

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Laurel is a city of approximately 25,000 residents, located in northern Prince George’s County in Maryland. Like their neighbors in North Laurel, the Laurel Police Department has been faced with the challenge of a growing commercial sex market in recent years, including sex trafficking and the assault of prostituted women. For example, in 2015, a man was sentenced to over eight years in prison for robbery, abduction and sexual assault of two women engaged in prostitution, and in 2010 arrests were made for sex trafficking.

To deter sex buyers, police routinely conduct street-level reverse stings using an undercover female officer as a decoy. When “johns” attempt to solicit sex from the officer, they are promptly arrested. To discourage the men from reoffending, police may release the names and photos of arrestees to the local media.  In their efforts to address the underlying demand driving commercial sex sales, the Laurel Police Department frequently coordinates its efforts with the Maryland State Police, officers from neighboring city police forces, and agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In early February 2016, Howard County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested eight johns at a Laurel hotel after the men responded to a decoy web advertisement suggesting prostitution. The web sting was conducted as part of the National Johns Suppression Initiative, an initiative led by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. The arrestees’ names were publicized in local media outlets.  An operation in January, 2019 resulted in the arrest of eight sex buyers.

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.”

Key Partners

  • Laurel Police Department
  • Maryland State Police
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Howard County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:

Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:

Public Education: Online Ads Intended to Deter Sex Buyers


Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Maryland
Type City
Population 21619
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