Tara Birl tried advertising on Craigslistbut found it utterly useless as a means to increase her business as a Santa Cruz sex worker.
Birl, a member of Santa Cruz's chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project says last week's closure of Craigslist's Adult Services section will have little effect on the business of local providers. In Santa Cruz, much of that has to do with the tourism industry.
Although estimates of the size of the industry are hard to come by due to the illicit nature of the profession, some guess that prostitution in the Bay Area s for tens of millions of dollars per year. It's also hard to guess the of people involved in sex work in Santa Cruz. The National Task Force on Prostitution estimates one in every women has worked as a protitute at some point in their lives. What's clear when walking in the lower Ocean Street area of Santa Cruz is that business seems to be booming on Friday and Saturday nights.
A local convenience store confirms some of the activity — the most popular items are cigarettes and condoms. This year, there have been 20 prostitution-related arrests.
Zach Friend, spokesman for the Santa Cruz Police Dept, said the arrests were for solicitation, loitering and conducting a lewd act. But those figures are not restricted to prostitution incidents and included other sex crimes. Last week, Craigslist, the popular San Francisco-based advertising site, pulled its adult services section, a decision that's generated a lot of chatter all over the country. The change was even discussed in a U. House Judiciary Committee.
William Powell, Craigslist's director of law enforcement relations, testified : "Those who formerly posted in the adult services category will now have to advertise at countless other venues. Locally, Birl said there was a bigger problem associated with advertising on the site: local police use Craigslist in their investigations.
The loss of the Adult Services section could have a greater effect on the way Santa Cruz detectives pursue prostitution cases in Santa Cruz.
But the Santa Cruz Police's efforts to reduce prostitution in the area are also tied to input from the community. We generally run operations in response to those increases. The end to adult services on Craigslist might cause a slight dip in local prostitution, but it is likely to be short term, Friend said.
We would assume that there will be a temporary drop off in the of cases of sex solicitation while people search out the other sites or new sites arise," he said. Friend said Santa Cruz has been a frequent destination of traveling sex workers who will visit the area and work a few days, something many sex workers refer to as "touring.
Others may look for work online, but Birl plans to stick with street work that she finds safer and more lucrative to advertising online. I sit there reading a book and looking cute, and wait for them to approach me," she said.
Ruth SchneiderPatch Staff. Find out what's happening in Santa Cruz with free, real-time updates from Patch.
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