Dear County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Health Officer Pamela B. Creekmur and Chief Mark Magaw,
Last week Prince George’s County Police Department unveiled an ill-conceived plan to live tweet a prostitution sting this week. PGPD believes this to be a landmark tactic that has never been seen before. Countless evidence has shown that public shaming initiatives do not result in a curbed demand for sexual exchange, and sex workers themselves say the tactic increases violence and risk.
HIPS, a Washington metro area organization dedicated to improving the health, safety, dignity and rights of sex workers and drug users, practices effective strategies at their drop in center and mobile outreach unit which provides education, counseling, assistance in crisis and other services and advocacy for individuals who engage in sex work, their families and communities.
A study done by the Urban Justice Center found that “Eighty percent of street-based prostitutes interviewed had experienced or been threatened with violence while working. When asked about reporting violence to the police, they reported that police did not take their complaints seriously and often told them that they should expect violence.” This reinforces our point that police intervention is not the appropriate method for dealing with the “problem” of sex work.
Shaming purchasers or providers will not end or minimize any of the dangers that result from commercial sex work. Instead, arrest and public shaming only increase people's vulnerability and actually perpetuate the incarceration-to-the-streets revolving door, increases isolation, and further pits law enforcement against the very people who should be able to reach out for help in cases of violence, coercion or abuse.
We call on Chief of Police Mark Magaw and Prince George's County Police Department to call of their plan to live tweet a prostitution sting – you are putting your citizens at risk if you conduct a sting in this manner. Instead, we invite you to sit down with sex workers and sex worker organizations, like HIPS, to develop a plan that effectively and compassionately addresses sex work in Prince George County.