By Cara McCoy.
Sex sells in Las Vegas, a city where erotic catalogs sit side-by-side with newspaper racks and billboards roll along city streets advertising adult services. But what has officials from many states atwitter is the sale of adult services online, particularly on the Web site of San Francisco-based Craigslist.
About 40 states are considering legal action against Craigslist for the sale of adult services in the site's online classifieds. A spokeswoman for Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said state officials are awaiting an update on the case.
Despite the more stringent guidelines the company has in place to eliminate posted by prostitutes, officials say sex is still for sale on the Internet. A coalition of 40 attorneys general is saying little about what any legal action might look like.
The Connecticut attorney general's office is leading the effort.
After a Boston-area man was accused in April of fatally shooting a woman who placed an ad on Craigslist, the site promised to rid itself of prostitution. The same man has been accused in the armed robbery of a Las Vegas woman in a Rhode Island hotel room.
That woman also posted an ad on Craigslist. It also says that suggest or imply "an exchange of sexual favors for money are strictly prohibited. Craigslist now prescreens all posted in the adult category and prohibits graphic images.
The company points out that some other sites offering online classifieds don't have screening standards. In November, months before the publicity stemming from the Boston attacks, the Web site and more than 40 states entered into a partnership to go after prostitution, human trafficking, child exploitation and other illegal activities.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and state law enforcement agencies also ed in the partnership. Craigslist agreed to provide information to state attorneys general to aid in prosecutions. It also enacted a system to block inappropriate posts and offered a method for users to flag inappropriate posts for review.
Craigslist agreed to "meet on a regular basis with the attorneys general to discuss additional ways to fight inappropriate content and making the site safer," according to a copy of the agreement supplied by Masto's office. Allowing the erotic services to continue keeps such segregated, while making it easier for law enforcement to monitor and crack down on Internet-based prostitution, human trafficking and child exploitation," the agreement said.
But even recently with new rules in place, attorneys general have been disturbed by the content of some. Local attorneys say using legal means to regulate the likely won't pass muster in Clark County because that could constitute an infringement on free speech.
A look at the Las Vegas adult services section on Craigslist yields numerous that don't differ much from what's offered for sale in the open on billboards, on business cards advertising escorts peddled along the Strip, even in the Yellow s. Her services are offered "in-call only," and like many others, she doesn't accept blocked calls.
A trip through the "entertainers" listings in a Las Vegas phone book yields after of full- that offer everything from "real college girls who strip for extra credit" to "beautiful soccer moms," "Asian centerfolds" and "naughty room service. What one person considers to be appropriate, another person can find highly offensive.
Bloxham said that while the district attorney's office has in the past tried to prosecute cases involving explicit advertisements -- notably, the saucy handbills slapped into the palms of tourists along the Strip -- the efforts have been trumped by free speech laws. It's so brazen; it's so offensive," he said.
Brazen and offensive to some, perhaps. With its new rules in place, Craigslist is collecting credit card information from its customers for adult postings, thereby making them traceable to law enforcement. He said law enforcement does use to set up meetings with suspected prostitutes, and any additional evidence that Craigslist might provide would be a boost when it came time to prosecute.
Then they see they need to provide a credit card, which they do, and they give law enforcement information so they can go and arrest them," Lopez said. She said the sour economy has prompted an upswing in those looking to get involved in the sex industry in Las Vegas -- whether as a prostitute, a dancer, a phone sex worker or any other related profession, legal or not.
She said her organization doesn't help people get involved but does provide information and referrals.
July 30, Full comments policy. Craigslist clampdown leaves door open for sex States considering legal action as Web site tightens policies.
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