Did 'Craigslist Killer' Reaction Make Us Less Safe?

An argument that law enforcement shot itself in the foot.


This Slate piece lays out some more interesting implications of the recent pseudo-crackdown on Craigslist by state attorney generals. (See previous post).  I say "pseudo" because no law was actually passed.  The mere threat of action was enough to make Craigslist agree to the AGs' demands.

Melissa Gira Grant argues that the ban on "erotic services" ads sought by the attorney generals has actually made harder their job of keeping the public safe:

The most significant difference between Craigslist and a brothel is that the former voluntarily opens its "black book" of clients to police. The records Craigslist maintains on its users played a critical role in apprehending the so-called Craigslist Killer. The Boston Police Department reported that "Craigslist was cooperative in identifying and locating" accused murderer Philip Markoff; Craigslist spokeswoman Susan Best notes that "a digital trail left by those breaking the law" allows Craigslist to support criminal investigations in a way, say, a newspaper cannot. In the case of Markoff, what could have become a series of murders was put to a quick halt once his inbox was examined. Boston cops said they relied on these "high-tech" solutions as much as "shoe-leather" investigation. The lesson here for those in law enforcement—and a lesson that Richard Blumenthal fails to understand—is that Craigslist is an ally, not a perp.

She also makes my point that the ban will simply shift sex workers into riskier venues to find customers.

When government meddles with successful entrepreneurs (and not just those online), there are unintended consequences like these.

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