To find out how police do, or don't influence their marketing decisions, Michigan State University Criminologist Mary Finn and her colleagues interviewed dozens of pimps in Atlanta and Chicago.
It's estimated that 80 percent of all sales of sex now occurring online. The MSU study found that when police target the most popular online sex marketplaces, pimps respond with what she calls "tactical displacement."
"They move into niche or specialty sites to advertise. They were very innovative," Finn said.
"They even have mobile apps now so when you're in a city and you want to know if there is a prostitute nearby, you type in your address and it will give you the locations," Finn told MSU Today. "So the technology they are using to market the sale of sex is pretty phenomenal."
Finn said the findings raise policy questions for law enforcement. "We need to have a conversation about what the real aim here is," she said.
According to Finn, some cities have had success targeting customers instead of the workers.
The study was published in the journal Victims & Offenders.
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