- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Tulsa police and community leaders say advertisements posted on a website for people to act as someone’s date for an event are often a front for prostitution and human trafficking.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Todd Evans estimates the escort ads, hosted on Backpage.com, have led to between 300 and 400 prostitution arrests in the city since 2012, the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1HRPFIF ) reported. He said Tulsa police have made more than 20 human trafficking arrests since Oklahoma passed anti-human trafficking legislation in 2012.

Executive director Wilma Lively of the DaySpring Villa Women and Children’s Shelter said it has housed 100 trafficking victims since it opened three years ago in Tulsa. She said a lot of the trafficking victims who have stayed at the shelter were listed on the website.

Lively said that photos of the women advertised on the classified advertisement website are often taken and posted not by the women themselves, but by the traffickers. She said in most cases, victims are forced into prostitution at a time when they’re most vulnerable, because of traumatic events they have endured or by threats of violence and drug addiction.

“Somewhere, they were vulnerable, and you always have predators out there looking for vulnerable people to take advantage of,” Lively said.



Evans said Backpage is probably the most popular website to facilitate prostitution because it doesn’t require membership, so customers can use it anonymously.

He said the shift of prostitution from the streets to the Internet mostly began with online classifieds site Craigslist. The newspaper reports the website used to have an adult services section similar to Backpage until it was removed in 2010 to avoid prosecution.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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