Online escort ad prompts sex sting

EVERETT – Police arrested five women and one teenage girl Thursday after officers reportedly arranged to meet them for sex through classified advertisements posted on craigslist.com.

Police say the Internet has become a popular place for people to advertise for escort services, and it isn’t surprising that they are using online ads for prostitution.

Everett police recently were tipped off to women posting sex-for-hire ads on the Internet site, Everett police Sgt. Boyd Bryant said. Some of those tips came from the women’s relatives, who were concerned for their safety, he said.

“Prostitution isn’t a victimless crime. It affects everyone in the community, including the mothers and fathers of these women,” Bryant said.

Officers posed as customers Thursday night at a north Everett motel, Bryant said. Five women and one 17-year-old were cited for prostitution. The women offered sex to the officers in exchange for money, Bryant said.

The next morning, a posting showed up on the Web site warning, “Stay the hell out of Everett. They are watching craigslist and setting up stings to nail everyone. Looks like the tax dollars working.”

A spokeswoman for craigslist said prostitution is strictly prohibited on the site., which mostly offers household items for sale, employment opportunities and personal advertisements. There is also an “erotic services” section.

“The category was set up at the request of our users, so that ads from legal escort services and sensual massage providers would have a separate place, rather than being posted in general personals sections,” spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best wrote.

But police say some people are using the erotic services section for prostitution.

A quick search turns up a woman who is “ready to play anytime you are,” at a price of $130, followed by a sexually explicit photo.

MacTavish Best said the postings are policed by users, who can flag any ad they believe is inappropriate. Staff will remove postings if they violate the terms of use, which according to the Web site include any pornographic images.

“As far as any moral judgment is concerned, we do not impose our own, but rather leave this to the greater wisdom of the craigslist community,” MacTavish Best wrote.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@ heraldnet.com.

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