The Backpage Hydra

In Greek mythology the Hydra was a many headed monster that guarded the entrance to the underworld. Part of what made this beast so terrifying was that whenever one of its heads was cut off, another two would grow in its place.

While the Hydra was never more than a myth, the Backpage was a chilling reality. And just like the multi-headed beast at the mouth of hell, Backpage is proving how hard it is to kill.

A recent raid at an unlicensed “massage parlor” in the west end of Greenwich, NY and the felony arrest of a woman on charges of promoting prostitution, offer a glimpse into the illicit sex trade — and the difficulty authorities face in curtailing it.

When authorities last year shut down Backpage.com, a website described by federal prosecutors “as the world’s top online brothel,” law-enforcement officials and advocates fighting sex trafficking hoped that would put a dent in the sex trade. But conspiracies involving the sale of sex are nothing if not persistent.

An undercover police officer went to the South Water Street apartment, after first making contact with the business on Bedpage.com, an imitator of Backpage. The investigator spoke with a woman and discussed prices — “$250 an hour” or “$300 for everything,” according to the court papers. It was made clear to the officer that sexual services would be provided for cash, the affidavit stated.

Since Backpage was closed, a number of competitors have been taking its place by offering thinly veiled sexual services. Backpage was shut down in April 2018 after years of litigation, but sexual services can still be found online.

It converted over to the ‘dark web’ and other sites,” said Elizabeth Boolbol, a Greenwich resident who fights to end sexual trafficking.

We need to have a place for survivors to go after they’ve been trafficked, and we need to stem demand — there shouldn’t even be a thing called ‘commercial sex’,” said Boolbol, founder of the Partnership to End Human Trafficking. “But it’s so profitable, and when it’s that profitable, it’s hard to stop.”

Backpage, and the countless other demon heads the Backpage criminal enterprise has given rise to, aspire to achieve the same measure of success as their infamous predecessor. We can only hope they reap the same measure of justice.

Once again Tony Ortega is nowhere to be seen helping the victims of human trafficking.

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