MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Backpage, a popular website used to solicit sex was shut down by the feds this week. In Martin County, deputies are expecting more women to sell themselves on the street now as a result.
As much as Backpage made it easier to buy and sell sex, investigations into the illegal trade would often start there.
“Backpage, that was like the hub for us. We usually built a lot of our cases,” MCSO Lt. Jesse Carde told us in an interview as we drove around with her in her patrol SUV. She’s taking us to where they’ll shift more attention as they expect pimps and prostitutes to do the same.
“Not that they ever stopped the operations on the street but obviously we expect a little more for traffic,” she said.
Generally the popular days for prostitutes to be out on the streets in Martin County are after payday, Friday and Saturday, but now with Backpage shut down, we’ll see how that changes.
“People that live in neighborhoods that have in the past tended to be hotspots for prostitution, they’re going to probably see resurgence of it at least until the prostitutes, the sex workers, find a different way to use the internet,” MCSO Sheriff William Snyder told us in an interview.
“I’ll take you by the street where we’ve shut down a couple brothels in the neighborhood,” Carde said.
These brothels would market themselves online, but also using old school methods such as business cards promoting a shell business and a wink.
“As they’re passing out their cards well it’s ‘not really but come by, we’ll take care of you’ and people in the neighborhood already knew what kind of business it was,” she said.
Detecting those will rely more on tips and undercover surveillance.
With Backpage down, Lt. Carde says it will make it harder for traveling sex workers to find Johns. It will also help curb underage and girls forced into the trade.
“I think it’s definitely a win for law enforcement that Backpage has been shutdown,” she said.