Increase in South Carolina Prostitution Stings

During the past several months, we have noticed an increase in the number of South Carolina communities that are operating prostitution stings. These stings may be designed to arrest either the customer (or john) or the prostitute (or escort). Prostitution stings have recently been conducted by police officers with the town of Springdale (Lexington County), Richland County, Florence County, Greenville (city and county), and Orangeburg County. Most stings seem to follow a common protocol.

The police will rent out adjoining motel rooms (there is usually a door connecting the rooms). They will then place advertisements on the Internet under the escort or adult services category. When the men call off the ad, they are invited to come to the hotel room for "incall" services. When the man arrives, he will meet a police officer who is pretending to be a prostitute. Usually there is some discussion about money. Other police will be monitoring everything from hidden wireless microphones. When the police feel like they have enough evidence, they will come rushing into the room and arrest the man.

When the police are trying to arrest women, they will call off ads in the escort or adult services department and request "outcall" service and try to get the woman to meet them at the motel room. When she arrives, she will meet a man pretending to be interested in hiring her for sex. Then she will be arrested and charged with solicitation.

Other commonalities we are seeing include the following:

  • Police run adds stating that law enforcement should not attempt to contact them
  • When asked, police deny being law enforcement
  • Police are not always confirming that there was an actual agreement for money in exchange for sex (a requirement for any prostitution or solicitation case)
  • Miranda advisements may not be given at all or may be given incorrectly
  • Callers responding to an advertisement for escort services may be pressured into making a money-for-sex deal, creating a potential for an entrapment defense

Something notable about these cases is that the police seem to always immediately notify the media whenever they have a sting. The names and photographs of people arrested are printed in the newspaper and shown on television. This is done without regard to the presumption of innocence that should apply, and can recklessly endanger the employment or family situation for those charged.

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