|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Worcester County is the easternmost county of the Maryland, and has a population of approximately 53,000 residents. Among the communities within the county is Ocean City, with approximately 7,000 residents, and Berlin, a town of about 4,700. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well documented in the county. Among the tactics used to address these and related problems have been those targeting consumer-level demand. For example, in March 2018, five suspects were arrested for soliciting prostitution during a web-based reverse sting by Ocean City Police Department (OCPD). OCPD narcotics and vice unit detectives set up an investigation into prostitution and human trafficking on Backpage.com and Craigslist.org. Police posted an advertisement for sexual services under the heading “Get Lucky” and received numerous responses. In five cases, suspects called the cell phone listed and made arrangements for sex at predetermined prices. In each case, OCPD detectives acting as females offering various services made arrangements with the sex buyers to meet at various hotels. When the suspects arrived at the appointed places and times, they were each arrested for prostitution. The names, ages, and photos of the arrestees were released to the media.
In January 2015 the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office announced that 21 sex offenders have been arrested within the county during “Operation Worcester Safety Net,” a proactive investigation into child abuse and child exploitation that started in the prior month. Detectives examined postings and exchanges on social media websites and peer-to-peer networks, including those allowing users to connect with like-minded people to share files, such as “child pornography” (i.e., child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM). Detectives also posed as young juveniles, both females and males, to talk with offenders, and eventually take them into custody if they tried to make sexual contact. The operation, dubbed “Worcester Safety Net,” started when the sheriff’s office signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Maryland State Police to affiliate with Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC). The group is a task force administered by the Department of Justice. By affiliating, the sheriff’s office was able to take advantage of specialized training and equipment to conduct proactive investigations into child abuse and child exploitation. The identities of the men arrested were included in press releases. The stated ages of the decoys ranged as young as 12 years, and criminal charges faced by the arrested men included Solicitation of a Minor; Solicitation for Prostitution; Possession of Child Pornography; Possession of Child Pornography with the Intent to Distribution. Investigators noted that most of the men had no criminal records and would not have been caught without this proactive sting operation.
- Worcester County Sheriff’s Office
- Ocean City Police Department
- Maryland State Police
- Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.wmdt.com/top-stories/21-sex-offenders-netted-for-crimes-in-worcester-county (2015)
- OCPD Nabs Four Johns In ‘Get Lucky’ Sting.” Maryland Coast Dispatch, March 21, 2018.
- https://www.oceancitytoday.net/ocpd-take-five-in-online-prostitution-sting/ (2021)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://mdcoastdispatch.com/year-long-safety-net-probe-results-in-21-arrests-investigation-finds-terrible-presence-online/ (2015)
- https://www.wrde.com/ocean-city-police-arrest-nine-in-human-trafficking-prostitution-operation (2016)
- https://baysideoc.com/ocean-pines-police-charge-woman-with-criminal-prostitution/ (2017)
- https://www.delmarvanow.com/berlin-man-faces-sex-abuse-child-pornography-charges-worcester-county (2021)
- https://www.oceancitytoday.com/ocean-city-police-arrest-one-in-human-trafficking-operation (2022)