Missoula County detectives use Craigslist as new resource


MISSOULA, Mont. - After a child sex sting case that sent seven people to jail in Missoula, detectives say they'll likely continue to use Craigslist and other online advertisement websites to catch suspects.

Friday, Missoula County law enforcement announced an undercover detective posed as an adult female on Craigslist, willing to prostitute her 12-year-old female relative. Seven people who responded to the advertisement were arrested for felony child sex abuse.

Missoula Police Detective Captain Mike Colyer said detectives typically they go after one suspect at a time, using online resources like email. The new broad approach used on Craigslist was a success, but it didn't come easy.

"We had a number of our ads pulled by Craigslist," Colyer said. "Which is a good thing."

The website depends on the people who use it, to help prevent these types of ads from going and staying up. It's as simple as clicking one button; anyone can flag what they see as an inappropriate post. Once a post is flagged Craigslist administrators review it and decide whether it needs to come down.

In addition to the flags online, Colyer said Missoulians even called the police department to report the posts.

"Most of them said first of all is this a police sting? If it is go get ‘em," he said. "They would follow it up quickly by saying if this is not police sting though, please investigate this type of activity."

Colyer said that's proof people in the community are a huge help in stopping crimes like the child sex sting.

"A big part of policing that is just the users themselves," he said.