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NEW CRAIGSLIST PROSTITUTION STING BY SHERIFF’S POLICE NETS 76 ARRESTS

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Friday, June 13, 2008 — A new round of on-line stings by the Cook County Sheriff’s Police has resulted in the arrest of 76 men and women on prostitution-related charges in a crackdown aimed at the website “craigslist,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

This is the fourth operation into illegal craigslist activities in the last 18 months by Sheriff’s Police Special Operations officers, who regularly monitor the “erotic services” section of the website. Since January of 2007, a total of 149 people have been arrested on charges ranging from prostitution, juvenile pimping, and human trafficking.

Sheriff Dart has repeatedly called on craigslist officials to remove the “erotic services” portion of their website, calling it a “free advertising network for prostitutes and pimps.” Craigslist has refused to remove the erotic services link, but just last week posted a new disclaimer stating that human trafficking and child exploitation will be reported to police. Sheriff Dart, however, believes the disclaimer is a weak attempt to dissuade such activity.

The latest, multifaceted prostitution operation targeted several fronts. In the first phase, undercover male Sheriff’s officers posed as customers, making dates with women featured in “erotic services” ads. Once an offer of sex for money was made, the offender was taken into custody. Over the course of the investigation, between $180 and $500 was offered for various sexual acts.

In two such cases, officers arrested women at local hotels and found that each prostitute had rented a second separate room where they left their children unattended while they met with clients. In one case, the women left a 1 year-old and 4 year-old child alone in the second room, and in the other incident the women left a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old unattended. In addition to prostitution charges being filed, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was notified.

In a second phase of the operation, Special Operations officers posted bogus advertisements in the “erotic services” section of craigslist. One ad, which clearly indicated a 15 year-old girl was looking for sex and would accept money, received three responses. One response was traced to a registered sex offender who had previously been arrested by Sheriff’s Police.

A second ad posted by the Sheriff’s Police featured a fictitious 14 year-old girl looking for a boyfriend was never removed, despite craigslist claims that such ads are taken down immediately as part of a self-monitoring system within the site.

“Craigslist’s claims of self policing are a complete and total farce,” Sheriff Dart said. “The company is well aware of what types of criminal activity are being advertised in ‘erotic services’ and continue to do next to nothing to stop it.”

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