Anyone who frequents the escort section of backpage.com probably already knows this. Ditto for anyone who has given much thought to how police vice units are adapting to an era in which much of the sex trade is orchestrated online. It bears mentioning nonetheless: The Dallas Police Department is posting online prostitution ads.
The ads take two forms. Some are dummies, meant to scare off would-be johns. Take this example, which was posted to backpage.com last July under the incredibly misleading headline "-->> new PERFECT brunette DOLL PETITE BODY? - 21 - 21":
The D_a(ll)_a_s (Pol) ice in an effort to fight the (vict)imization and sexual exp) loitation of women and (child)ren through (prost)itution/human (traff)icking has initiated several (under) cover operations on the Internet. Some ads will be a (warn)ing such as this one! Other ads will be real, in that the person you meet will be a real under_cover police officer! You are not anonymous and your location and (I_P) address has just been lo(gg)ed.
The other type, as the dummy ad explains, is meant to be indistinguishable from the dozens posted each day by prostitutes and/or their pimps. When the unsuspecting customer arranges a meeting, cops are waiting, handcuffs at the ready.
Between June 2012 and August 2013, those efforts resulted in the arrest of 42 men, according to statistics DPD will present to the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday.
Related article: How to verify an escort is not an undercover pig
The fake ads are part of "Operation Brick & Mortar," the department's initiative to crack down on the online sex trade. The name is a reference to the department's attempt to establish the same "clear and visible presence on the Internet" that they have on the street. Sort of like having a squad car parked in front of a shady massage parlor.
The strategy is remarkably successful. During one recent series of stings, the department batted 1.000, making 23 arrests on 22 ads posted. Two of the girls were underage. Overall, Brick & Mortar has resulted in 118 arrests and citations. Six of those have been for compelling prostitution, two for criminal solicitation of a minor. Six child victims have been identified or recovered.
None of which has put so much as a dent on the local sex trade. Since midnight, more than 80 escort ads have been posted to Dallas Backpage.