APD looks for new ways to tackle online prostitution after Backpage shutdown

Investigators fighting prostitution online

AUSTIN - One of the world's largest classified ad websites has shut down the "adult" section of its website.

Backpage.com's decision came Monday after allegations that the website knowingly facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking.

The Austin Police Department's Vice Unit said this affects them as they use the website in their investigations and go undercover to try and stop this type of activity.

Regularly, they set up stings hoping to find victims of human trafficking in online ads.

"My guys will come in in the morning and they'll start trying to get ahold of them," said one member of the task force. "They can't even get a date set up because there's so much business for it."

Up until this week, a good portion of business was still on Backpage and detectives said if you know the lingo, ads thinly veiling prostitution are easy to find.

"Some will say I'm not an escort, but it will cost you 200 roses for an hour, 50 roses for an hour and we know that roses are equivalent to money," one detective said.

Backpage's decision to shut down the "adult" section of its website came after after the release of a Senate report stating the site edited its adult ads to "conceal the true nature of the underlying transaction".

"It's a good and bad thing," one member of the Vice Unit said. "It's good because it takes these ads off Backpage's adult section, but bad because they'll most likely move elsewhere. They're still going to try and stay in business. It's not going to stop the prostitution that is going on, so they're going to find another avenue for it. Backpage was the easiest one for us to navigate. Some of the other sites are a little trickier and the more in-depth investigation is needed, but we can work with them."

Wednesday, the Vice Unit said the main goal is to stop human trafficking, identify who is doing it and put them in jail.

"Men who are using these women like trash, they don't care about them," one detective said. "They put them out there and these women are stuck."

It's a cycle the task force is hoping to break.

(© 2017 KVUE)


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