Prince George’s County Police officers embarked on a prostitution sting operation Tuesday night as they pledged to do last week, but there was no sign of their promised tweets on the raid. Or arrests, for that matter.
Police say undercover officers feared that sending out 140-character updates on the bust, announced with some fanfare last week, would blow their covers. Similar concerns were voiced last week by advocates for sex workers, who said the prospect of live-tweets from a prostitution bust would lead to inadvertent outings, with the potential for abuse and public humiliation.
“We’re really glad the online activism got the PGPD to rethink their live-tweeting,” says Emily Hammell of the DC-based organization HIPS, which offers health and social services to sex workers. “No sex workers were collateral damage.”
Police insisted the proposed live-tweeting and sting operation would only target johns.
“We never said we were going to do anything related to the prostitutes or the sex workers or whatever the politically correct term is,” says Lt. Bill Alexander, a department spokesman.
Alexander says the flap over the threat to live tweet the sting explains why no arrests were made. “Really intense interest in this seems to have gotten the word out not just to our community,” he said. “Our theory is that would-be solicitors were aware we were doing something this week and were exceedingly cautious.”
Hammell’s group is still hoping to get a meeting with PGPD officials to discuss why the live-tweeting of a prostitution raid was ever floated in the first place. And while there were no police tweets last night, HIPS still plans to go ahead with its planned response by live-tweeting its outreach operations for a day.
The combination of the world’s oldest profession with the latest in technology was a no-go, but PGPD isn’t finished with law enforcement using enhanced social-media. “We’ll continue to highlight those officers who aren’t undercover,” a department press release reads. “Our community has embraced those conversations and plans are already in the works for the next PGPD TweetAlong. Stay tuned.”