February 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
GLAA blasts prostitution crackdown
prostitution, gay news, Washington Blade

Donovan House Hotel (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington characterized as “scandalous” and “absurd” a D.C. police sting operation in which police are placing ads on websites inviting people to hotel rooms to engage in sex for money and then arresting them for solicitation for prostitution when they show up.

The Washington Post reported that police have arrested more than 50 unwitting customers on prostitution-related charges in the past several weeks at hotels at or near Thomas Circle, including the upscale Donovan Hotel.

Police have said they initiated the sting in response to complaints by nearby residents, businesses and clergy affiliated with churches in the area.

“GLAA’s position is that the law should be changed, and that alternatives to incarceration should be pursued in the meantime,” said GLAA President Rick Rosendall. “Criminalizing sex work helps no one, and is an absurd waste of police resources.”

Over the past several years GLAA has released detailed position papers pointing out that transgender women are sometimes forced into sex work to survive after being denied more traditional employment due to discrimination. The group has said that arresting LGBT people and others in that situation makes it more difficult for them to find other forms of employment.

When asked by the Blade whether gay male or transgender sex workers or customers were being targeted in the sting, police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said only that the operation was a response to community concerns.

“Our enforcement of prostitution offenses targets community-related complaints,” she said. “We do not ask arrestees their sexual orientation. All arrest information is public record. We don’t comment on operational matters,” Crump said.

“In the case of sex behind closed doors, whether in homes or hotel rooms, the fact that someone is paying for it is no more a legitimate basis for police involvement than if the transaction is a more informal one involving dinner and a show,” GLAA said in a policy brief first published in 2008.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Here's my fundamental question after reading this statement: "Police have said they initiated the sting in response to complaints by nearby residents, businesses and clergy affiliated with churches in the area."

    So… how did these "nearby residents, businesses and clergy affiliated with churches [CATCH IT…. CHURCHES] in the area" know what was happening in the hotel rooms? Was there such a big ruckus in hotel rooms where sex work was performed that the clergy, residents and businesses heard or actually witnessed sex work happening? Too many unanswered questions and given the gentrification of Dupont Circle and the history of that part of DC, it smells like bullcrap to me that this was only about "community related offenses."

  • In this day and age people actually expect cops to have morals, ethics and intelligence? Get out!

  • We're really complaining about people going to jail for breaking the law…. This somehow makes since? Wanna pay for sex go to NEVADA wanna buy some weed go to COLORADO

  • Unless the police are targeting "To Catch A Predator"-like johns who are looking for underage or trafficked undocumented sex workers (or some other vulnerable population), I don't understand how the justify the time and expense.

    Are they looking for johns who rough up prostitutes? I can't see how there would be any community complaints for a vice with no spill-over to the community. And if it were that much of a nuisance, the hotels themselves would handle the problem. Speaking of the hotels, how would they or the "community complainants" distinguish between a prostitute plying his/her trade in one of the rooms and some tweaker looking to be a gangbang or serial bottom cumdump taking as many loads as he can (but without money changing hands) before checkout?

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