Police Effectively Using Technology to Fight Prostitution

I’ve written before about how ridiculous it is for politicians to think shutting down a website will impact prostitution. We’ve seen this happen with Craigslist’s erotic services postings, and pressure has ramped up to shut down Backpage after BP became the next big player in erotic classifieds once the government eliminated their closest competitor.

I’ve mentioned before that law enforcement would be better off using the existing online platforms to police their local adult services industry rather than pretend that shutting down a website will make it go away. As I see it, the web provides less anonymity than, say, street walking where people meet anonymously with no electronic records. For two people connect through a website, email or phone needs to be used (unless the prostitute puts their physical address in the ad, which doesn’t appear to happen since they likely prefer to screen their customers).

Which brings us to Roseville, Minnesota. It turns out that Roseville’s cops figured out how to use Backpage to find escorts operating in the city and solved their escort problem. How did they do it? They searched for “Roseville” on Backpage and set up appointments with local advertisers then stopped by for a visit to the local motels they were using to run their businesses. They also cracked down on customers visiting the escorts.

Think about this: While sitting behind desks, police officers were able to determine where escorts were working in their city. Roseville cops focused on the problem and used the same technology used by the escorts to solve it.

Perhaps politicians can learn something from this?

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