Craigslist and prostitution may go hand in hand

By Robyn McGlohn - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Internet prostitution is coming of age as more and more people turn to cyber space for intimate companionship.

They're not just there to find love; many are there to make money.

WAFF 48 News takes you inside the pages of Craigslist and exposes what's really there.

From brothels and street corners and now to the internet, the world's oldest profession has gone cyber.

The men and women of Craigslist are selling more than just furniture and cars. They're also selling sex.

"Craigslist made it easier, made it more accessible, made it more of a popular place on the internet for people to go and find it," said DeWayne McCarver with Huntsville Police's STAC unit.

STAC is cracking down on the illegal internet trade.

So how easy is it to post an ad and get a response?

WAFF 48 News created two separate ads under the casual encounters section. We weren't selling sex per se, but it was pretty obvious there was more than just a massage involved.

In the meantime McCarver's unit made their first Craigslist prostitution bust.

Two women at the Motel 6 in Madison. Then just 3 days later, a third arrest was made at the Holiday Inn in Huntsville. "We took out an entire group in one evening of work," said McCarver.

Fighting the war against online prostitution is relatively new, but will surely soon become more involved.

It's just a matter of figuring out who's selling sex and who's actually selling a massage.

So how does McCarver and his team determine if it's a prostitute?

"We don't until we make the phone call. Last week when we did this, we made countless phone calls to the phone numbers," he said. "A lot of times we would get busy signals, disconnected lines. But what ended up happening, we're getting the same group over and over again, so there were multiple postings for a few prostitutes."

"It's very much wide open right now. The internet is very much unregulated," said Tim Gann with the Madison County District Attorney's Office.

Gann says law enforcement is just now catching up to internet crime and prostitution, especially in Alabama.

"A lot of this stuff like Craigslist is out of sight out of mind," said Gann.

Recently, leaders in 40 states besides Alabama screamed for more regulation on Craigslist, and they got it.

The "erotic" services section will soon be removed; however an adult services section has been added.

A phone number is required to post there along with a credit card number. Plus it cost 10 bucks, with the website stating all proceeds are donated to charity.

"Those are directions they're going, so they can limit their liability the best they can," said McCarver.

Craigslist promises they will be more diligent in monitoring all postings. This comes after the most recent scandal involving Phillip Markoff.

The 22-year-old New York med student is suspected of killing a woman who posted an ad in the erotic services section of Craigslist.

"It takes someone getting killed and making national news before it gets addressed. Now we know there is a problem," said Gann.

"It's a dangerous trade, whether it's on Craigslist or they're walking up and down the street," said McCarver.

Despite a few changes to Craigslist, the war on-line is just beginning for McCarver's team.

The two ads WAFF 48 News posted on Craigslist's casual encounters both had responses.

The first response came within an hour and after two days we had more than 20 hits.

The responses ranged from asking for a picture to wondering if there was more than just a massage.

It's a sign there may be prostitution online.

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