MILWAUKEE — Police say teens are being forced into prostitution against their will every day in Milwaukee, and the men doing it have a website to help them. The free website used for advertising jobs and things for sale is also being used for human trafficking, often of underage girls.
Police say when Craigslist took off their “erotic” section, Backpage.com took its place. On the site, there are hundreds of postings advertising “adult services.” “There are so many people that are posting. You can look at it one moment, and you come back and refresh and there’s three or four more ads up there,”
Backpage.com is a site that has largely flown under the public’s radar. Like other free advertising sites, it is used to post jobs and sell goods, but underneath the well-intentioned surface, prostitution and human trafficking are taking place. “Sometimes there’s naked individuals on there, or what they’re saying in the ads is just blatant prostitution,”
Milwaukee police have been tracking the growing problem. Officers work undercover for the city’s sensitive crimes unit, so FOX6 News cannot show their faces. They say the prostitution alone isn’t the problem — it’s the age of the girls being seen. “We have encountered numerous underage girls that are posting,”
FOX6 News found court documents showing four recent cases involving four different men selling four different women for sex, all at the same location – a shared room at an Econolodge in Milwaukee.
All together, the men face 21 felony counts related to human trafficking and prostitution, but this small ring is just the tip of the iceberg. Police say the problem will only be solved when the website postings are no longer allowed to happen. “It’s going to have to be a mutual effort between the website, the police department and the citizens of Milwaukee,”
Milwaukee police say they’ve been aware of the Backpage.com website for years. However, tracking and catching illegal activity is easy, but getting the adult section of the website taken down all together is much more difficult.