Prostitution going digital

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 18:32:12-04

For more than a year, Laura Swanson has been working on her documentary on prostitution and human trafficking.

"Anybody can fall victim to it," said Swanson. "It's not one socioeconomic class or one minority group whatsoever."

And it's becoming easier and easier for criminals to get in touch with victims by going online.

"Backpage is kind of like craigslist," said Swanson. "It's a site where you can sell things, connect with people, sell services, escort services."

Or even illegal services that more and more people have access to.

"With a click of your mouse, you can have man, woman or child at your doorstep ready to engage in a sexual act with you that you have paid for," said Andrea Bitely with the Attorney General's office.

But it's also becoming more difficult for police to track them down.

"They now can do it from the comfort of their home or their vehicle, miles and miles away from where they actually want to meet this individual," said Det. Sgt. Danny Cook with Michigan State Police's Cyber Command Center.

An entire operation can happen right on your cell phone.

"Other variations of that include mobile applications that are on phones," said Det. Sgt. Cook. "This has unfortunately allowed younger kids and minors to have access to individuals that are not safe for them to be in communication with."

Which is why police have also had to shift their focus online and undercover.

"We investigate tips and leads that come into our offices statewide to then try to tie down an individual to that investigation and see if it can lead to some type of criminal prosecution," said Det. Sgt. Cook.

To try and put an end to prostitution and human trafficking.