For nearly two years, members of the Sacramento, California vice squad have been working to cut down on online child prostitution. Police have apprehended nearly 70 girls under the age of 18 since 2005. Most of these girls have been released to foster or group homes. The Sacramento police have combined efforts with the FBI, as part of a nationwide campaign to combat underage prostitution called Innocence Lost. The program is now in 30 cities and the goal is to decriminalize the girls and concentrate on the pimps who control them.
Police say most ads appear on Craigslist under a category named “Erotic Services.” Although Craigslist has posted a disclaimer, warning against human trafficking and the exploitation of children, law enforcement officials have concluded that it has not deterred girls from posting the ads or men who are searching for sex. The overriding question that haunts the nation is “why would a girl sell herself online?”
To answer that question, police have attempted to “de-brief” these girls once they are apprehended. One girl who was interviewed stated that she was 14, but had posted ads online since she was 11 years old. When asked why she posted ads online she replied, “I wanted to feel loved…I wanted to feel important.”
Craigslist executives said they abhor the fact that their site has been used in such a manner but believe that the problem could be harder to track if the category were removed. According to Craigslist executives, the problem would be harder to track if the category were removed because the ads would be spread throughout the entire site instead of centralized in a single category.
Both legal experts and police say that Craigslist bears no legal responsibility. Undercover officers have stated that the listings have actually helped them to track the girls who are posting the ads. In select cases, this has also led police to the girls’ pimps. Officers say that as the years pass, the number of ads from underage girls appears to have significantly increased.
Preventative measures from parents have proven to be somewhat ineffective as the number of child prostitutes online has increased in recent years. One thing parents can do to police their children’s activities is to become more involved in the daily lives of their children. In recent years, parents have been more concerned with being friends with their children as opposed to being parental figures. It is my opinion that this form of parenting has led young girls to seek parental figures in pimps. A simple change in the posture of parents could be the single greatest factor in reducing the number of young girls who seek attention through online prostitution.