Detectives from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office arrested a woman on prostitution charges during an undercover sting operation at an East Stroudsburg hotel. The undercover sting operation began when detectives discovered an online advertisement for sexual activity in exchange for money. The woman allegedly posted this advertisement which depicted photos of herself and contact information containing her phone number. Undercover detectives used the phone number on the advertisement to communicate with the woman and arrange a “date.”
The woman agreed to meet with an undercover detective at a Quality Inn in East Stroudsburg. Before the meeting took place, detectives were able to install surveillance in the hotel and the specific room where the sex acts were to take place. Once the undercover detective arrived at the hotel, the woman allegedly agreed to perform a sex act after accepting $175.
After the woman accepted the money, the room was ambushed by detectives and the woman was arrested. A search of the hotel room provided detectives with her cell phone, a small amount of suspected marijuana, and $2,469 in cash. The woman admitted to engaging in prostitution at the same hotel for three weeks.
The CSE Institute is disheartened by the Monroe Police Department’s efforts to target sex trafficking by arresting prostituted persons who do not qualify as victims of sex trafficking. It is clear this undercover operation was geared towards criminalizing prostituted individuals instead of targeting sex buyers who drive the demand for commercial sex. This type of operation does nothing to target sex traffickers or buyers who perpetuate sexual exploitation of individuals and keep the commercial sex industry alive. At the CSE Institute, we firmly support the Equality Model which advocates for the criminalization of individuals who drive the demand for commercial sex, namely sex traffickers and sex buyers, and decriminalize prostituted individuals. In addition, the “choice” to commit the “crime” of selling sex is often made from a place of economic insecurity, addiction, and other desperate circumstances. We believe that a “choice” made in an effort to survive is not a choice at all.
While the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office commented that this arrest is part of their ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking, this investigation only resulted in the prosecution of a prostituted individual. The CSE Institute has previously written about Monroe County’s misguided attempts to target sex trafficking. We believe Monroe County’s efforts consistently fail to target traffickers and sex buyers who drive the demand for commercial sex. Further, we cannot support the arrest and publication of the names and photos of prostituted persons – especially under the guise of helping those involved in commercial sex trade.
The arrested woman in this case was provided an opportunity to partake in a program with Truth for Women, an organization to assist sexually exploited women. While the CSE Institute supports a criminal justice response that connects victims of sexual exploitation with services, we denounce a response that involves the criminalization of prostituted persons. The prostituted woman’s charges will remain on her record and her preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 13, 2020.