Further proof that technology is no respecter of persons:
Nassau County has made more than 70 arrests since it began focusing on Craigslist last year, one of numerous crackdowns by vice squads from Hawaii to New Hampshire that have lately been monitoring the Web site closely, sometimes placing decoy ads to catch would-be customers.
“Craigslist has become the high-tech 42nd Street, where much of the solicitation takes place now,” said Richard McGuire, Nassau’s assistant chief of detectives. “Technology has worked its way into every profession, including the oldest.”
Augmenting traditional surveillance of street walkers, massage parlors, brothels and escort services, investigators are now hunching over computer screens to scroll through provocative cyber-ads in search of solicitors.
In July raids, the sheriff of Cook County, Ill., rounded up 43 women working on the streets — and 60 who advertised on Craigslist. In Seattle, a covert police ad on Craigslist in November resulted in the arrests of 71 men, including a bank officer, a construction worker and a surgeon.
And in Jacksonville, Fla., a single ad the police posted for three days in August netted 33 men, among them a teacher and a firefighter. “We got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hits” in phone calls and e-mail messages, said John P. Hartley, the assistant chief sheriff there.
Sex and the Internet have been intertwined almost since the first Web site, but the authorities say that prostitution is flourishing online as never before. And while prostitutes also advertise on other sites, the police here and across the country say Craigslist is by far the favorite. On one recent day, for example, some 9,000 listings were added to the site’s “Erotic Services” category in the New York region alone: Most offered massage and escorts, often hinting at more.
Law enforcement officials have accused Craigslist of enabling prostitution. But the company’s president, Jim Buckmaster, said its 24-member staff cannot patrol the multitude of constantly changing listings — some 20 million per month — and counts on viewers to flag objectionable ads, which are promptly removed.