Rented furnishings and hidden cameras were among the props Seattle police vice detectives used to arrest nearly 100 men who showed up at a ritzy downtown condo in the past two weeks expecting to pay for sex.
Nearly three-fourths of the men who were arrested on suspicion of patronizing a prostitute responded to postings in the “erotic services” category on craigslist, the free online community where people can search for apartments, jobs, used cars, friends and dates. The rest answered escort ads found in the back pages of The Stranger and Seattle Weekly.
Vice detectives then turned their attention to men who, instead of cruising the streets for prostitutes, respond to online and newspaper ads looking for sex, he said. To make their ads believable, Sano said, female detectives were photographed in flirty poses, phone lines were established and appointments were set up.
When a man arrived at the rented condo, he was greeted at the door and ushered inside, Sano said. As other detectives hid in a bedroom watching live footage from hidden cameras, the female detective, posing as “a provider,” would engage in a conversation about sex and collect her fee, he said.
Once money had changed hands, Sano said, other officers would then walk out and arrest the man.
All but five of the men were interviewed, cited and released: One man, a registered sex offender, was booked into the King County Jail for violating conditions of his release, three others were booked on drug violations and another on a weapons charge, Sano said.
Arrestees have included “bank presidents, state employees, business owners, construction workers, physicians and surgeons,” Sano said.
And here’s what craig himself had to say…
Craig Newmark, who founded craigslist in San Francisco in 1995, said he has heard that “prostitution is a significant problem” on the Web site and noted that craigslist has built a “top-notch” reputation for responding to complaints of illegal activity.
As for the local craigslist review board where men discuss the sexual exploits they paid for, Newmark said those who operate the site are improperly using the craigslist name and that legal action is being discussed by the Seattle-based law firm representing his site.
Craigslist, which is now available in some 300 cities worldwide, doesn’t monitor what people post.
“We are a democracy … and we find we can trust our community,” he said. “I don’t know what the situation is like in Seattle, but we would prefer that [police] go after violent criminals or crooked congressmen.”
I’d prefer that my local police would go after all of them. This is not a debate on whether or not prostitution should be legal. Right now it’s illegal in most of the country. When prostitution moves into a neighborhood it’s not long before the drugs move in, then the violent criminals. Cracking down on prostitution is stopping the flood of crime before it even starts.