Washington 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

Washington County is located in northern Maryland, about 20 miles north of Martinsburg, WV and abutting Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  Prostitution and sex trafficking activity are well documented in the county, especially in Hagerstown (the county seat and its largest city) and surrounding areas.  The county is also a stop for wider networks of human trafficking and prostitution operations, including Martinsburg WV and many communities in central Pennsylvania, such as Harrisburg, Wilkes Barre, and Scranton. During a summit on child sex trafficking in 2015, Washington County was described as one of several jurisdictions in Maryland that has become “a hub for the sexual human trafficking of children,” with the county’s proximity to Interstates 70 and 81 and truck stops in Hagerstown, Hancock and Greencastle, Pa., considered prime locations for offenders to recruit vulnerable victims for sex in exchange for money, drugs, food, shelter, car rides and cigarettes. In June 2017, the Maryland Department of Human Services announced that Washington County had the fourth-highest number of suspected juvenile sex-trafficking victims in Maryland, behind only Baltimore city and Prince George’s and Baltimore counties. Recent examples include a case in which a man was sentenced in 2018 to spend over a decade in prison for sex trafficking of a minor. In 2015, he transported a 15-year-old and 17-year-old girl from Pennsylvania to Maryland. He made each girl engage in sexual acts in hotels and kept the money they made. On June 16, 2015, Maryland State Police received a call from the 15-year-old victim’s father. He said his daughter was being held against her will at a hotel in Hagerstown. Troopers responded at the hotel, and found the man and the missing girl.

In June, 2021, a multi-agency police investigation and coordinated operation in Maryland netted at least 12 individuals suspected to be part of a criminal sex trafficking operation within Washington County.  Of 19 subjects detained, seven were not charged and were placed into harm reduction programs by the Washington County Health Department.  The remaining 12 individuals were charged.  The Washington County Health Department were also part of the team effort with police agencies, assisting victims with harm reduction programs and other basic assistance.  In addition to the dozen suspects charged in the operation, six more arrest warrants were served and suspected heroin and methamphetamine were recovered. The investigation was a coordinated effort between The Hagerstown Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Maryland State Police computer crimes section, Maryland State Police child recovery unit and Washington County Health Department under the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN).

Among the tactics used to address problems driven by commercial sex are those focusing on consumer level demand. The Hagerstown Police Department and nearby law enforcement agencies have conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1983. For example, in June 2018 five individuals were arrested in Hagerstown for allegedly attempting to buy sex. The names, ages, and addresses of those arrested are often reported in the news, with details about the operations. Punishments vary for men soliciting sex. If convicted, defendants can face up to one year in jail, a $500 fine or both, according to Maryland state code, and the penalties increase depending on whether the individual is accused of human trafficking or involves offenses against a minor. Typical sanctions include one year of probation, plus a fine of $200 to $300.  Some of the men have been ordered to perform 40 hours of community service, in addition to fines and probation.

In June and August of 2019, the Hagerstown Police Department conducted two undercover operations that targeted human trafficking, street-level prostitution and internet-advertised prostitution. Officers targeted people involved in prostitution and solicitation for prostitution.  Seventeen people were arrested, and their identities disclosed.  The investigation was supported, in part, by funds provided by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.


Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Maryland
Type County
Population 150575
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