Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis City Council is going after a website that investigators consider a major hub for child sex trafficking.
A city council committee’s resolution wants the website Backpage.com to pull its adult classified advertisements.
Minneapolis joins other cities, prosecutors and advocates nationwide in demanding that the site take action.
Amelia Huffman, Commander of Criminal Investigations for the Minneapolis Police Department, says of the 20 cases of child sex trafficking they’ve investigated this year, every single one is tied to Backpage.com. The ages of the girls have ranged from 15 to 17.
“Just as it is easy to sell your old iPhone, or to sell a car using these online resources, it’s just as easy to engage in trafficking online,” Huffman said. “Your customer base knows where to come. All of the ads are there. It’s like a smörgåsbord.”
Said council member Elizabeth Glidden: “I was shocked. I knew Backpages was a factor. But to hear they’re involved in every single case, that speaks volumes.”
Glidden helped lead the charge on passing the resolution.
“Take this down,” she said. “Crimes are being caused. Children are being harmed because of what’s being done on Backpages.”
The site is owned by Village Voice Media, the same company that owns City Pages.
Reportedly, Backpage.com made tens of millions of dollars after Craigslist pulled its adult ad section in 2010, making it the largest advertiser for adult services.
Despite repeated efforts nationwide to get Backpage.com to make a change, the company has refused.
“For them to say a blatant ‘No way’ and value the corporate dollar more than the safety of all of these children, I’m shocked,” Glidden said.
WCCO attempted to contact the company and has yet to hear back.
In Backpage.com’s adult classified section, there is a disclaimer asking users to agree to report any instance of sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
Minneapolis detectives said the company has cooperated during sex trafficking investigations.