Victory: Marlyand Police Department Planning To Tweet Arrests Of A Vice Sting Arrests Nobody
from the mission-accomplished dept
We had just discussed one Maryland police department's stupid plan to tweet out the arrests made during prostitution stings the other day. I had several problems with the plan, including that the police offering up pictures of the accused, not convicted, "johns" seemed like an overreach. Add to that a somewhat confusing use of pictures in their blog announcement making it unclear as to whether the accused prostitutes would be put on public display, not to mention the horrified rebuke of some social workers, and this whole thing looked like a poor plan that should be squashed. But it wasn't squashed. The department went forward with the sting-to-be-tweeted. So how did it work out?
It was a complete and total success, by which I mean that they arrested absolutely nobody. I'm going to tell you how the department spun this less-is-more outcome, but you've probably already guessed.
"I've participated in hundreds of stings, and I've never seen what happened today. By advertising this days ago, we wanted to put johns on notice to not come to Prince George's County," Dave Coleman, head of the county's Vice Intelligence Unit, said in a statement. "That message was heard loud and clear. We just put a dent in the human trafficking business without making one arrest."Yup, they're going with the idea that this widely-mocked threat to tweet out pictures is what kept away everyone who might be seeking a prostitute on the day of the sting. It's an interesting theory, which relies on the idea that somehow getting your picture tweeted by a handle followed by a grand total of twelve-thousand people in the whole wide world was somehow more of a deterrent than getting arrested in the first place. There is such a thing as social shaming, but there's also such a thing as having to go to jail, and I'll leave it to you to figure out which would be worse for most people.
On top of that faulty logic, this idea that declaring victory over human trafficking because nobody showed up to your advertised whores-as-bait party is the stupidest thing since, oh, I don't know...
Yeah, that sounds about right. Some experts agree.
Darby Hickey, an activist who promotes sex workers' rights and spoke to me for our piece last week told me that the department is delusional.Or, I suppose the department could continue with this insane little experiment and plan a tweet-sting every single day for the rest of existence. Assuming they believe their own hype, they kind of have to, don't they? If this is all it takes to end prostitution and human trafficking, it'd be a crime not to, and then we'd have to put their pictures up on Twitter or something.
"If 'putting a dent in the human trafficking business' was as easy as threatening to live tweet, imagine what a better world we'd live in," Hickey wrote in an email to me. "I'm glad no one was arrested and I think it was a good moment for conversations about the need to change the approach to sex work, as well as recognize that even if it's still criminalized, furthering stigmatizing is not helpful but dangerous."