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.