Tukwila police and Seattle Police Department’s Vice High-Risk Victims Unit recovered three 15-year-old girls in SeaTac in two prostitution stings on Backpage.com last week.
The teens were apparently recovered as part of a “task force” operation, according to law enforcement officials.
Backpage is in the midst of a game of legal chicken with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and a group of 51 attorneys general—led by Washington’s Republican AG Rob McKenna—who have all demanded Backpage shut down their escort ad section, or institute much stricter guidelines on the site to protect children from being exploited by pimps and johns.
Backpage responded to McKenna in a letter last week, declining to make any major changes to the site, and saying the company is already doing its “best to provide a sage and legal environment for its customers and to be a responsible corporate citizen.”
Mayor McGinn issued—who’s been a bit quiet on Backpage.com since McKenna jumped into the fight last month—issued his own statement today, addressing the recent recovery of the three 15-year-olds.
On Thursday September 22, while Backpage.com was drafting its lengthy rationalization of their practices, our High Risk Victims Unit participated in a task force operation in SeaTac. We recovered three female children who were being advertised for sex on Backpage.com. Rescuing children from being sexually exploited is a top priority for our police department, but we can never get ahead of this crime while a company like Backpage.com profits from the sexual exploitation of children and uses their newsrooms to minimize the extent of the issue.
This is unacceptable. How many more children will be exploited for profit on Backpage.com before this company changes their policies?”
We’ll have more details on the recovery of the 15-year-olds later today.
Police tell us this was a joint Tukwila PD, SPD, and FBI “underage prostitution sweep.”
Police, posing as johns, called women from escort ads on Backpage.com and asked them to come to a hotel in Southcenter.
Six women and three 15-year-old girls came to the hotel where, after they agreed to have sex for money, were arrested for prostitution.
The teens were taken home to their families, police say.
We’re working to find out whether police targeted escorts on any other websites in the sting.