Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Anne Arundel County police arrested four women near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and say escort service masquerades are phasing out street prostitution in the county.

“We’re definitely noticing a trend,” said Officer Sara Schriver, a county police spokeswoman.

“In the Laurel area and around BWI, there’s been a decline in street prostitution and an increase in online-advertised escort services,” which are often fronts for prostitution, she said.

The women arrested in the undercover investigation were Ashley Price, 20, of the District; Emily Fritz, 18, of Costa Mesa, Calif.; Carlena Perry, 26, of Schaumburg, Ill.; and Kelly West, 20, who has no fixed address.

The four women were charged with prostitution stemming from a sting operation conducted by the police department’s vice unit. They were arrested between July 13 and Aug. 1.

Authorities said the women had been using the Internet to advertise their services as escorts in the Laurel area and near the airport.

Police said prostitution services frequently operate under the guise of being legitimate escort services. Authorities said some dating Web sites and online classified services feature overt ads for prostitution.

To avoid local vice officers, prostitutes advertising online usually will stay in one place for weeks at a time, meeting with several clients in arranged appointments before flying to other cities.

Officer Schriver would not comment on whether police linked the women to the same service or the methods used to catch them, because the investigation is continuing.

“We don’t want to tip off others,” she said, noting that many of the escort services skirt the law by coding the words of the advertisements to offer sexual services discreetly.

Anne Arundel County is one of several jurisdictions in Maryland targeting prostitution.

Earlier this year, Brandy Britton, 41, of Ellicott City was arrested and charged with running a prostitution service out of her home.

Mrs. Britton, a former sociology and anthropology teacher at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, charged hourly rates of more than $300, authorities said.

On the Web site that police say she used to solicit business, Mrs. Britton said she receives money for modeling and companionship — not for prostitution.

In Hagerstown, police increased their sting operations after a wave of prostitution appeared on downtown streets this spring.

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