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The moves are again stirring debate among law enforcement and victim advocates about how aggressively to go after websites such as Backpage, which until recently generally responded to subpoenas and cooperated with police seeking information on traffickers and underage victims. They operated so blatantly,” said Miami Beach Police Capt.
Daniel Morgalo, head of the street crimes unit, who acknowledged detectives will have to find new ways to combat trafficking.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 74 percent of all its child-trafficking report last year was generated from Backpage.
The State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit and local police have used Backpage as a chief tool, leading to scores of arrests in recent years.
Critics say the site’s shutdown may make work more dangerous for women in Florida’s ever-thriving sex industry — and will push the business to murkier parts of the internet, complicating the job of local police officers who regularly scoured Backpage to find trafficking victims.
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Amid a crackdown on websites that cater to prostitution, the feds have shut down Backpage, the classified ad service long derided as the go-to hub for human trafficking, particularly in South Florida.
Just over half of adult victims in recent Miami-Dade cases, and 40 percent of minor victims, were advertised on Backpage.com, according to prosecutors.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been outspoken against Backpage; her office filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed last year by trafficking victims against the website.
In response, Craigslist — which remained a popular hub of prostitution — took down its personal ads for users in the United States.