Sheriff sues Craigslist for sex ads

March 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Illegal sex is putting Craigslist under new scrutiny. The San Francisco-based website is being accused of being the largest source of prostitution in America.

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You can find just about anything on Craigslist: cars for sale, refrigerators, and people. That's why Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart is suing the online classified ad site.

"Stop the facilitating of prostitution and stop being the largest source of prostitution in America," says Dart.

Dart wants Craigslist to shut down its erotic services section. It's an area filled with thousands of listings and pictures involving sex.

"There's no mystery what's being sold," says David Batstone, Ph.D., a professor of ethics from the University of San Francisco.

Batstone is the author of "Not For Sale -- The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It." He works closely with federal agents to stop human trafficking. Together, they use Craigslist as a tracking tool for traffickers.

"The presumption is if we could shut Craigslist down that somehow we have stopped the industry, but really what will happen is they will go underground and it will be more difficult to get a window into what's being sold," says Batstone.

Sheriff Dart disagrees and wants Craigslist to do more to monitor its own site. As it is, he says his department spends too much time arresting prostitutes who openly do business on Craigslist.

A Craigslist spokesperson put out a statement Thursday that says, "Misuse of Craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable and we continue to work diligently to prevent it."

Craigslist gave ABC7 an 18-point-list of ways they try to stop illegal activity on the site. It includes community policing and removing ads once a user files a complaint.

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