Prince George's Co. police receive backlash over plans to live t - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Prince George's Co. police receive backlash over plans to live tweet prostitution sting

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PALMER PARK, Md. -

There is backlash against the Prince George’s County Police Department over a public prostitution sting. The department is planning to live tweet photos from their upcoming operation next week.

There were some positive comments, but there were a lot of people against the idea of using this type of social media to crack down on the world's oldest profession.

Reaction has been swift and overwhelmingly negative. Police said that is in part because social media incorrectly interpreted this operation's mission as targeting women too.

“Very quickly misinformation spread and you’ll see we took that back and reiterated the fact we are targeting Johns,” said Prince George’s County Police Department spokesperson Julie Parker. “What we’d love is the fact all this publicity is telling the Johns not to come to Prince George’s County. Take your business elsewhere. We don’t want it in this county. It's illegal anywhere, but we will use whatever means possible to deter criminals.”

The department is promising -- from the ads to the arrests – they will take the community behind a prostitution sting to crack down on a problem, although is only a misdemeanor, that resulted in more than 300 people being arrested last year.

“Prostitution can be a gateway crime,” said Parker. “It doesn’t necessarily stop at that illegal act. It can escalate into assaults, into robberies, into murders. You see that across the country.”

The department starting using Twitter in earnest in mid-2011 and their Twitter handle is now even on department vehicles.

They say the social media push has paid off with an 18 percent increase in crime solver tips from 2012 to 2013.

But on Twitter, some people are calling plans for the live tweeting session a publicity stunt that could ruin people’s lives and reputations.

Criminal defense attorney Jon Norris agrees with a lot of the critics.

“The presumption of innocence is going out the window and they are using these tweets as basically a public shaming,” said Norris. “This is not a process that’s going to last long or have any success.”

Norris also said there could be confusion with suspect identities and he doesn't buy the claim that this is about police transparency.

“The police department uses undercover agents as prostitutes,” said Norris. “In some cases, their conduct can be so bold it’s almost entrapment. That conduct is not being documented.”

Police said this is no different than the suspect information they routinely release as part of the public record on a daily basis. And all the attention has not changed their plans one bit.

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