Swift social media reaction against Prince George’s plans to live-tweet prostitution sting

A social media campaign from Prince George’s police is getting strong negative reactions as people respond to the department’s plans to live-tweet a prostitution sting sometime next week.

“From the ads to the arrests, we’ll show you how the PGPD is battling the oldest profession,” according to a statement first announcing the operation.

The department won’t reveal when or where the sting will occur, but encouraged the public to follow @PGPDNews and #PGPDVice as “we take you along for the takedowns.”

Officials from the police department said the social media tactic is a way to discourage criminal behavior in the county. They said the effort would target those soliciting prostitutes, not the women or girls involved in prostitution.

“Some young girls and women involved in prostitution are victims of human trafficking,” police wrote in a statement. “Our Vice Unit regularly helps trafficked women connect with groups and advocates who help them escape the dangerous sex trade.”

But social media reaction against the campaign was swift.

A woman who identified herself as Katy Otto or @exfkaty on Twitter wrote in response to the campaign: “#PGPCVice I grew up in PG County and I am disgusted that you would live tweet sting operation arresting sex workers @PGPDNews - for shame.”

#PGPCVice I grew up in PG County and I am disgusted that you would live tweet sting operation arresting sex workers @PGPDNews - for shame

— Katy Otto (@exfkaty) May 2, 2014

Another woman — @jljacobson, who identified herself as Jodi Jacobson, wrote: “@PGPDNews #PGPDVice This is a disgusting abuse of power. Why am I not surprised you are targeting sex workers for this mockery ?”

.@PGPDNews #PGPDVice This is a disgusting abuse of power. Why am I not surprised you are targeting sex workers for this mockery ?

— Jodi Jacobson (@jljacobson) May 1, 2014

But along with the many negative comments, there also were a few positive reactions to the announcement.

“Thank U @PGPDNews for going after johns who demean women,” said one Maryland woman, Lisa Holt or @balloonlisa.

Thank U @PGPDNews for going after johns who demean women. PGPD live tweet prostitution sting - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG http://t.co/C98pTnLJYy

— Lisa Holt (@BalloonLisa) May 2, 2014

Holt continued in another tweet: “As a woman who lives in PGC, I appreciate this kind of work to eradicate crime in our county. Thanks for locking up the johns. #PGPDVice.”

As a woman who lives in PGC, I appreciate this kind of work to eradicate crime in our county. Thanks for locking up the johns. #PGPDVice

— Lisa Holt (@BalloonLisa) May 2, 2014

In response to the outrage on social media, the Prince George’s police department posted a follow-up message on its blog on Thursday night. Officials said the intent of the operation is to deter Johns and is an example of the department’s transparency.

“The intent all along has been to put on notice and/or arrest the very people who exploit women and even young girls in our community,” the statement from the police said.

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Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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