St. Mary’s 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

St. Mary’s County is a county of approximately 115,000 residents, located about 30 miles south of Washington, DC. Pockets of chronic prostitution and instances of sex trafficking have been reported by community residents and local law enforcement, particularly in the cities of Leonardtown and Lexington Park.

Among the strategies pursued to ameliorate these problems are those focused on combating consumer-level demand.  The St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office has conducted at least four web-based reverse stings since 2010, which have resulted in the arrest of at least 45 sex buyers.  The identities of the men arrested in all four of the documented reversals were released to the media. During one such operation, conducted in August 2013, 14 men from throughout Southern Maryland responded to an online invitation to come to a home in St. Mary’s and have sex with a prostituted woman. When they arrived, they instead encountered a police sting operation.  Three months later, in November 2013, the men appeared before a St. Mary’s County District Judge to plead guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution-solicitation offense and receive a 10-day jail sentence, suspended to 18 months of unsupervised probation. They also were called upon, in most cases, to pay a $500 fine and perform 24 hours of community service to receive probation before judgment, removing the convictions from any criminal record.

SMCSO Vice Unit officers have also used web-based reverse stings to identify individuals attempting to solicit minors for prostitution. For example, in July 2014, media outlets reported that an undercover detective with the SMCSO had been contacted in May 2014 by an adult male sex buyers “after posting a non-sexual advertisement on a classified-based website commonly viewed by sexual offenders. The undercover officer, who posed as a 16-year-old female, exchanged numerous emails with the man for several weeks.” During this time, the man “solicited the undercover officer to engage in sexual intercourse for U.S. currency, requested the undercover officer send him nude photographs, and sent a photograph of his genitalia to the officer.” Using these exchanges as evidence, the SMCSO then obtained an arrest warrant for the john and arrested him at his home in nearby Frederick. He was then brought back to St. Mary’s County, where he was charged with prostitution and soliciting a minor for prostitution. His name, age, and hometown were released to the public.

In December 2014, SMCSO officers conducted a formal web-based reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of 16 male sex buyers and the recovery of a 16-year-old sex trafficked girl. Following their arrest, all of the sex buyer names and mugshots were publicized in local media outlets. Following the investigation, the SMCSO released the following statement:

“Beyond the quality of life issues that are associated with prostitution, other serious criminal acts — such as human trafficking, sexual assault, drug distribution and robbery — are known to have a prostitution nexus.”

Key Partners

State Maryland
Type County
Population 114468
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