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Flint turns to Facebook to discourage prostitution

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Flint Police Department is using a new tool to crack down on prostitution: Facebook.

The department plans to post the photos of people arrested on prostitution charges on its Facebook page.

Police Chief James Tolbert says his department has been trying to curb prostitution in Flint. But he says repeated arrests and sweeps have not eliminated the problem.

Tolbert says he constantly receives calls from Flint residents complaining about prostitutes plying their trade in the open. The chief says people tell him about seeing illegal sexual activity when they walk their children to school in the morning and outside their windows when they are sitting down to dinner. 

Tolbert says perhaps the police department can discourage people from engaging in prostitution if their booking photos are posted where their families can see them.

“Maybe their significant other, their children, their mother, their father (will see) what kind of activity they're engaging in,” says Tolbert. 

But Tolbert insists using Facebook is about more than shaming prostitutes and their customers.

“An overwhelming reason is to let people know that neighborhood is engaging in this illegal activity,” says Tolbert. 

Other communities around the country have targeted prostitution using similar social media campaigns.

The Flint Police Department already posts photos of other criminal suspects on its Facebook page.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.