Often described as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution has existed since the dawn of human culture. The earliest forms of prostitution can be traced back to the third millennium B.C, when Sumerian women in service of the sacred goddess, Ishtar, would service men who offered money to support Ishtar’s temples. The rise of catholicism brought a war on prostitution with any form of sexual activity outside of marriage viewed as sin. Today, the war on prostitution rages on throughout much of the country.
However, the view on prostitution is slowly shifting. Nevada has offered legalized prostitution since 1971 and lawmakers in Hawaii have just introduced a bill that would legalize prostitution for the aloha state. Many believe that legalizing the sale of sex in licensed facilities would reduce violence against women while making sex workers healthier, increasing tax revenue, and reducing the use of precious law enforcement resources.
While Baltimore lawmakers and voters have become increasingly socially progressive, prostitution is still illegal in the city Baltimore and the state of Maryland. In fact, Baltimore police have aggressively targeted prostitution with huge sting operations, fake solicitation ads, and the deployment of undercover “janes”. New data released from the city’s police department has made it strikingly clear where law enforcement is targeting prostitutes.
In total, there were 670 Baltimore residents arrested on prostitution charges since 2013. One might expect arrests to be widely dispersed throughout the city, but the lines where arrests were made are clearly drawn. Listed below are the most common areas for prostitution and prostitution related arrests.
7. Harford Road
Harford Road extends from Darley Park all the way out to the northeast corner of Baltimore and beyond. Despite running through such a long stretch of the city, all of the arrests occurred between Mary Avenue and Oakcrest Avenue. Altogether, 25 prostitution arrests were made on the aforementioned stretch of Harford Road since 2013.
6. Dundalk Avenue
The heart of Dundalk Avenue may run through Dundalk, but a portion of the road also runs through Baltimore. Baltimore police have put in a great deal of effort to vigorously patrol their section of the avenue. Since 2013, a total of 28 arrests were made for prostitution charges on the Baltimore stretch of Dundalk Avenue.
5. South Conkling Street
East of Downtown Baltimore lies South Conkling Street, which was the site of 16 prostitution charges between Pulaski Highway and Bank Street. A few additional charges were served within two to three blocks of the street in the Baltimore Linwood and Baltimore Highlands areas.
4. East Patapsco Avenue & Fairhaven Avenue
While Patapsco Avenue was the location of 18 prostitution arrests, the areas within a three block radius from the street accounted for 27 additional arrests. Patapsco appears to be a hotspot for cops who pulled in 21 prostitutes further down the avenue on West Patapsco. Additionally, Fairhaven Avenue, an intersection of East Patapsco, was the site of another 17 arrests.
3. Wilkens Avenue
Running from Mt. Clare to Oaklee, Wilkens Avenue services Southwest Baltimore as part of U.S. Route 1. It would appear a few of the services offered off of Wilkens from Millington Avenue to South Gilmore Street have been consistently targeted by police. A total of 30 arrests on prostitution charges were made along the avenue since 2013.
2. Garrison Boulevard
Garrison Boulevard runs north and south on the west side of Baltimore from Fairmount to Lucille Park. A total of 94 arrests were made along the entire stretch of Garrison Boulevard. While arrests occurred along the entire boulevard, they were more frequent on the northern end from Belle Avenue to Belvieu Avenue.
1. Old Goucher, East Baltimore Midway, and Druid Heights
North of Downtown Baltimore, the neighborhoods of Old Goucher, East Baltimore Midway, and Druid Heights saw a large number of prostitution arrests since 2013. Altogether, there were 17 arrests in East Baltimore Midway, 10 arrests in Old Goucher, and 11 arrests in Druid Heights. East 25th Street was frequently targeted by police with 10 arrests made along the street between Harford Road and Barclay Street.
Should These Arrests Be Celebrated?
While some would argue that removing prostitutes off of Baltimore streets is an inherently good thing, others would argue that ongoing police efforts to wage a war against prostitution is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Maryland’s correction system currently consumes a significant portion of public resources. The system currently houses more than 20,000 prisoners at a cost of a near $1 billion per year. Furthermore, one out of three state prisoners is a Baltimore resident, meaning that Baltimore prisoners account for nearly a third of a $1 billion in tax expenses. Is it worth it to house sex workers in prison for a trade that has occurred since the third millennium B.C? It turns out Baltimore Police have been asking the same question and starting this year, police will begin an experimental program to divert low-level prostitution offenders to support services rather than jail.
While the program is a step in the right direction, the crackdown on prostitution may still be stronger than needed. Baltimore police have been known to create fake Craigslist Personal Ads or hire undercover janes to seduce men on the street. These tactics are more than deceitful and often lure individuals to commit crimes they would not normally commit. Police data reveals that 46 male arrests were made since 2013. A good portion of these arrests were likely a result of entrapment. A prostitution charge can destroy an individual’s life, leaving them trapped with hefty fines, jail time, and unemployment. Is it right to punish individuals who would not have committed a crime without the seduction of local law officials? While a debate over the severity of a prostitution crime wages on, others throughout the country are debating whether or not the act of prostitution should remain a crime at all.
Should Prostitution Remain A Crime?
Whether for better or worse, the act of prostitution will forever remain a part of human culture. As long as there are women willing to provide sexual services for a fee, there will be men willing to pay for such services. Given the persistent nature of the world’s oldest profession, it may make more sense to regulate it rather than punish it. The legalization of prostitution would certainly help to alleviate the overwhelming tax burden Maryland law enforcement is currently facing. With efforts to eliminate prostitutes halted, the Baltimore police force could focus its efforts on fighting more serious violent crimes. It’s worth noting that 2016 marked the city’s second deadliest year on record. Last year’s crime record reverberates the fact that there are more important crimes for the city to deal with aside from prostitution.
Furthermore, legalization of prostitution would allow the city to work on reducing the level of violence against women. Prostitutes who currently experience violence are unable to turn to law enforcement due to the illegality of their actions. If law enforcement were on their side, police would be able to target those who find pleasure in abusing and punishing women. Not to mention, additional tax revenue from licensed brothels would be more than welcomed.
Ultimately, the decision to legalize prostitution or cut down on the severity of the crime lies with Baltimore citizens. If you believe prostitution is a scourge of humanity, then you now know where police need to focus their efforts in order to put an end to local prostitution. Conversely, if you believe prostitution should not be punished with the level of severity it currently is, then additional action is needed on your behalf.