Maryland’s Prince George’s Police Department has decided to live-tweet a prostitution sting operation. The PGPD, which covers part of the area surrounding Washington, DC, announced on Twitter, Facebook, and its blog that it would be holding a sting and tweeting photos during the arrests.
It’s questionable how much can be gained by these shaming tactics. Heavy-handed police action can just make sex workers more vulnerable, either by forcing them into unsafe conditions or undermining efforts to provide rehabilitation services for people who need them. UK police, for example, are rethinking the effectiveness of high-profile brothel raids, and New York is attempting to stop police from treating carrying condoms as evidence of prostitution. The fact that much sex work exists on the margins of society is exactly why campaigns like this can be carried out: it’s easier to gawk if we see the people involved as somehow not like the rest of us.
The response online hasn’t been particularly positive. The whole thing has been decried on Twitter as a cruel publicity stunt, with critics taking up the police-provided #PGPDVice hashtag. The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This is disgusting and dangerous. Full service sex workers already face a huge amount of stigma as well as potential for violence because of their jobs. Publicly naming and shaming them isn’t going to have any positive effect, it will only make it harder for them to leave the industry and more dangerous for them to stay in it. Full service sex workers need safety, resources, and respect.