Police to live tweet prostitution sting to embarrass punters off streets

US force's  ‘unprecedented social media tactic’ has drawn criticism from groups representing sex workers

A US police force’s new social media strategy is likely to embarrass at least one customer in Maryland next week as it live tweets a prostitution sting. But the tactic has drawn criticism from advocate groups, who likened it to a reality TV show.

Police in Prince George’s County, Maryland, will provide live coverage of the crackdown on prostitution through Twitter next week. The police has blogged about its operations before, and pointed to previous posts as an example of the sting.

In previous operations by the force, women have posed as prostitutes to find pundits, who were then arrested.

But advocate groups have criticised the move. “This seems to a be reality TV show masking as law enforcement,” Clyndee Clay, who works with sex workers in the local area, told USA Today. “There’s a sensationalism there that is exciting there for people but quite frankly these are real societal issues and again these are real people’s lives we’re dealing with.”

The police department’s original statement featured a woman in handcuffs, leading many to think that the force would target prostitutes themselves, but the police confirmed that was not its intention. “Our Vice Unit will target those who choose to solicit a prostitute, not prostitutes themselves,” the police said.

The force hopes that the possibility of appearing in the tweets will embarrass potential punters into avoiding the streets. “We’re hoping the advance notice we’ve provided acts as a deterrent to would-be johns [punters] who choose to engage in this illegal behaviour,” it said in a statement. “This is another example of our department’s commitment to transparency.”

The sting will be tweeted from @PGPDNews, and using #PGPDVice. Police will not reveal the location of the sting until it is completed.

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