CHICAGO (CN) - Craigslist openly and unabashedly facilitates prostitution, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart claims in Federal Court. He filed a lawsuit to shut down the online classified site's "erotic services" section, calling it a "convenient clearinghouse for pimps, prostitutes and patrons that enables sellers to advertise and buyers to peruse discreetly."
"To say Craigslist's 'erotic services' forum makes prostitution accessible is an understatement," Dart adds. "Advocacy groups consider the Web site to be one of the largest sources for prostitution in the country."
He says Craigslist's acceptance of these ads for "erotic services" violates city, state and federal prohibitions on prostitution and creates a public nuisance.
With forums for 450 cities in 50 countries, Craigslist allows millions of users to post listings for jobs, housing, dating, used items and community information.
But the site "is not limited to innocuous postings selling sofas and advertising apartments," Dart says. "Craigslist has an erotic services section where people openly promise sex for money."
He says Craigslist hosts 21 categories of erotic services, including "w4m," "mw4m" and "t4mw," where "m" stands for man, "w" for woman and "t" for transsexual.
Users can even search for a prostitute based on key words relating to location, type of service, physical dimensions and ethnicity, Dart claims.
He notes that Craigslist posts a warning that "offers for or solicitation of prostitution" are prohibited, but claims "such posts are the raison d'etre of erotic services."
Dart adds that many posts in the erotic services forum use thinly veiled code words, such as "roses" and "diamonds" for money, and "Greek" for anal sex. He says some advocacy groups believe that terms like "young and fresh," "virgin," "new girl" and "new to Craiglist" are code words for minors.
Attached to the sheriff's complaint are several examples of erotic service ads.
Dart has allegedly nabbed offenders through Craigslist, making arrests for human trafficking, juvenile pimping and child endangerment. But he claims the constant surveillance of Craigslist's erotic services "consume the Sheriff's resources."
He asks the court to find Craigslist liable for creating a public nuisance, enjoin the company from operating its erotic forum, and award actual and punitive damages.
David Gallagher with Querrey & Harrow is representing the sheriff.