The Unbelievably True Story Of How Craigslist Murdered Over 100 People

from the the-real-killer-here-are-the-killers dept

It's time to panic about Craigslist again. If it's not a key player in the human trafficking scene, it's the unwitting accomplice in over 100 murders.

[A]ccording to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, an industry watchdog and analyst, Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark just three weeks ago, when a 22-year-old man from Gary, Ind., attempted to rob the middle-aged couple who’d arranged to buy his car.
Frankly, I'm surprised the number isn't higher. Not because Craigslist is the best thing that happened to pimps and murders since the invention of the internet, but because it encompasses nearly every major and minor city in the United States.

And, seriously: "Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark?" I realize "users of Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark" is a much clunkier sentence, but this sounds like it was written by a grandstanding sheriff, rather than a journalist.

Not only is it accessible by a vast majority of the US population, but its reach goes far beyond the buying and selling of goods. It also handles personal ads, searches for roommates and dozens of other ways for two strangers to meet face-to-face.

Sure, the voice behind this latest "let's worry about Craigslist" isn't a misguided government official or law enforcement officer with an anti-sex worker ax to grind. It's AIM's Peter Zollman, who's put together a completely not-for-profit SafeTrade "initiative," which helps set up safe areas for meetups and transactions, usually with the assistance of local law enforcement.

But to suggest this is a Craigslist problem -- rather than a human being problem -- is off-base. Nevertheless, Zollman makes this assertion:
Zollman and other critics say Craigslist has done “next to nothing” to encourage safe use or deter criminals. Among other things, the site doesn’t provide safety information unless a user explicitly seeks it out, and the company has not endorsed any third-party efforts — like Zollman’s own campaign to create “SafeTrade” spots at local police stations.
Zollman wants the site to make safety warnings more prominent and to get behind some sort of "safe trading" program, whether his or someone else's. But his company's tracking of "Craigslist murders" tries to imply it is somehow worse than the old system of classified ads in newspapers -- which arguably led to an exponentially higher number of murders than Craigslist has, even given the limited, very local reach of most papers.

Zollman's take on Craigslist is decidedly more measured than it was a few years ago, when he referred to it as a "cesspool of crime." Unfortunately, his willingness to play into fearful narratives that sell better than more measured takes on the issue undercuts the sincerity of his "SafeTrade" offer. And it does nothing to dissuade law enforcement and other government officials from attacking Craigslist for the acts of a very, very, very slim minority of its users.

Even when Zollman takes into account the positives of Craigslist, he still undercuts his own arguments by saying things like the company's "ethos of anonymity" makes it prime territory for criminal behavior -- something that throws shade at Craigslist and anonymity, as if both of these elements were inherently suspect, rather than just being treated as so much thrown baby/bathwater by the SafeTrade founder.

Common sense and personal responsibility are in short supply, which is why people are always happy to suggest it's the platforms they use that should be doing more, rather than doing anything of their own will and volition. Meeting a stranger always carries a risk. Doing so while carrying lots of cash even more so. (However, given the ubiquity of asset forfeiture programs, I'd be somewhat wary about taking large sums of cash to a police station…) I agree Craigslist should feature safety information more prominently, but then again, nothing in its warning is groundbreaking or otherwise unavailable to potential users.

And Zollman's murder tracker would be a lot more honest if it were simply a list of people who've used Craigslist to facilitate their criminal acts, rather than giving the impression that Craigslist is somehow, in some very minimal way, responsible for these incidents.


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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 9:57am

    Safe Trade spots?

    . . . like Zollman’s own campaign to create “SafeTrade” spots at local police stations.
    I would feel safer trading in any other public space than at a police station.

    I once thought so. But the police aren't there to protect you. Even if you are perfectly law abiding, they are there to find something, anything that they can charge you with. Real, imagined or manufactured.

    Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick to the safety of somewhere not so close to a police station. Somewhere public, maybe with friends present or nearby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mcinsand, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:05am

      Carrie Fisher in 30 Rock episode

      >>I would feel safer trading in any other public space than at a police station.

      This reminds me of an episode of 30 Rock with Carrie Fisher in a guest spot. Her character and Liz walk by a man with a gun. Liz reacts with a shocked 'he's got a gun!' Then, Fisher's character reassures her with 'don't worry, it's not a cop.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:20am

      Re: Safe Trade spots?

      What do you wanna bet that any high-cash transaction in a "safe-zone" will wind up being asset-forfeited by helpful police?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:36am

      Re: Safe Trade spots?

      The irony of course is that his SafeTrade group is totally redundant; anyone can go to their local precinct and meet someone; just put the station as your location in CraigsList.

      And trading goods at a police station does have benefits: after all, they're there to find something to charge you with, ergo the transaction is above board on the part of the seller. And the place is under heavy video surveillance, so should anything go wrong after the transaction is complete (the perp waits around outside and tails the other party home and does X), the police have some good footage to use to find them.

      And at the station, the employees are too busy filling out paperwork behind glass walls to get involved with a peaceful transaction. The last thing they want is MORE paperwork.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:36am

      Re: Safe Trade spots?

      Everybody knows that all deals must be made in the boondocks at an abandoned junkyard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 3:09pm

      Re: Safe Trade spots?

      Using a Post Office parking lot or lobby as a trading zone can result in Federal charges if a crime is committed by thieves on Federal property.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 14 Jan 2016 @ 5:58am

      Re: Safe Trade spots?

      That. It's pretty much enough if you arrange any possible meetings in public, preferably somewhat crowded places. I wouldn't go anywhere near the police if I were carrying hard cash with me to buy some used car.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 9:57am

    So out of the # of interactions craigslist facilitates, what does that make the odds of dying when I involve craigslist? Throw a couple more statistics in there, and it's likely that it'd be statistically safer to be on craigslist than live within a mile of a bee hive or traveling for whatever I was on craigslist for. (not that I care about bee hives, like everyone else I have armed guards to protect me from death from bee and shark attacks).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      klaus (profile), 14 Jan 2016 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      That was my thought on this - what are the odds of coming to grief, because it's all about risk. Anything beyond 1/12,000 and you're into being struck by lightning territory [according to NOAA].

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 9:57am

    It's funny cause I read "went over 100 murders!" and I'm like "what really? ONLY 100 murders that revolve around Craigslist up to this point??" That has to be such an astronomically small percentage of the population to make Craigslist safer than going to the supermarket given the userbase size.

    Maybe we should be asking what is Craigslist doing right to have such a low statistical probability of getting murdered compared to legacy implementations of meeting people!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 9:59am

    Who is this 'Craig' and why has he killed so many people?

    Is that why he has so many cars for sale?

    While traditional local print media certainly hates Craigslist, I'm pretty sure they would hate a slew of 'vicarious responsibility' lawsuits even more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:01am

    Its the tool and not the user

    Just like with gun control, people blame the tool rather than the wielder of the tool. Apparently fear has always been and apparently always will be a great tool to take rights away and control people. If only we could blame "fear" and not the fear monger.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:30am

      Re: Its the tool and not the user

      How short sighted of you. Don't you know that inanimate objects (Craigslist) can't fight back? The people who run Craigslist will just seem defensive rather than righteous. Therefore, the hidden agenda (see some of the responses below) will be achieved...or so goes the argument in Zollman's head.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A Non-Mouse, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:06am

    What's the difference

    Well that's weird. The Washington Post also has classified ads, yet I didn't see "SafeTrade" mentioned ANYWHERE. I wonder how many murders they are up to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:17am

      Re: What's the difference

      You know that's not a fair comparison.

      You need to compare Craigslist to every newspaper and "nickel ads" paper everywhere, for as long as classified ads have existed.. Or even just as long as Craigslist has existed.

      You'd think this problem would have come to national attention earlier, or not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        A Non-Mouse, 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re: What's the difference

        I specifically call out the Washington Post only because that's where the "article" we're discussing was published. You are otherwise quite correct, though. Their classifieds are no different than anyone else's, including Craigslist.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:07am

    It seems as though Zollman is having trouble gaining traction and or funding for his SafeTrade program.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:10am

    Perhaps we can find some hints...

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/pzollman

    So he knows how to write linkbaity stories without much vetting.

    "My goals: To work with great people (colleagues and clients); keep my company profitable and growing; make more money and work not quite as hard; continue enjoying the daylights out of what I'm doing (as I do now)."

    So it isn't to protect the public, it is to protect his income.

    His company publishes things that facilitates classified advertising, how many murders has he been complicit in?

    As with most things, when someone is talking about the horrors of X look for the angle where they seek to profit from X.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:29am

    What a coincidence. That is about the same number of blowjobs that Craigslist has gotten me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    blogagog (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 10:43am

    Chicago murdered 100 people already this year. We really need to ban Chicago, ppl.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 11:30am

    Wait a minute

    You mean that since 9/11 Craigslist is responsible for more murders in the USA than terrorists?

    Forget the war on Terror, wheres the war on Craigslist?

    Why is their leader, Craig, not behind bars for running this murder list?

    And what a sick-o list it is, when I looked on there I see one person advertising death by Chainsaw, lawnmowers, boats and even this one guy wanting to kill people with a bucket of rusty nails! The Chainsaw guy only needed $25 to pull of his murderous acts, crazy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Jan 2016 @ 12:48am

      Re: Wait a minute

      "You mean that since 9/11 Craigslist is responsible for more murders in the USA than terrorists?"

      To be fair, almost everything is responsible for more deaths in the US since 9/11 than terrorists. Especially if you use the right wing definition of terrorist that pretends that only Muslim terrorism counts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    frank ertolacci, 13 Jan 2016 @ 12:03pm

    murder

    it certainly appears that you are a CORPORATE TROLL for ebay // do you think people believe that only craigslist is used by criminals ??????

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 13 Jan 2016 @ 12:20pm

    Data is a funny thing. How many deaths/robberies were the result of auto trader deals? No one knows, but I bet in the long history before the interwebs that number is much greater.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 13 Jan 2016 @ 12:53pm

    I actually feel a whole lot safer just with the "passing the 100 murder" headline we started with. 20 Years it's been around? 60 million people per month use it in the U.S. alone? It's record is wayyy better than I would have assumed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sman88, 13 Jan 2016 @ 1:11pm

    What do you expect? Zollman has the IQ of a turnip.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 13 Jan 2016 @ 3:02pm

    So, how many have been killed by New York, Chicago, LA, etc.?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2016 @ 5:40pm

    A lot of people must have pissed off this Craig guy...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2016 @ 6:30am

    Maybe this Sheriff should worry more about deaths of people by the police in general , that number surely surpasses Craigslist 20 year run. the currant number is someplace between 400 and 1000 (guesstimation)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 14 Jan 2016 @ 7:20am

    The Right Way To Provide A Safe Spot

    Well, a sensible approach would be for the Department of Motor Vehicles to manage such transactions, because the DMV is situated to provide one-stop service. The buyer pays the DMV, probably in the form of a money order, if he doesn't have banking accommodation, the DMV cuts a check to the seller, and effects the title and registration change, checks to see that the car isn't stolen, and that the keys which the buyer receives work with the car. This covers not only the risk of robbery, but also the risk of people selling things which are not theirs to sell, or collecting the money and refusing to complete the legal transfer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Blame Shift, 14 Jan 2016 @ 7:27am

    The THING thats at fault

    "[A]ccording to the Advanced Interactive Media Group, an industry watchdog and analyst, Craigslist passed the 100-murder mark just three weeks ago, when a 22-year-old man from Gary, Ind., attempted to rob the middle-aged couple who’d arranged to buy his car."

    About that car, what brand did the murderer use to facilitate the murder, and has that auto manufacturer hit their 100 murder accomplice milestone?

    What breakfast cereal(s) gives the calories to burn and facilitate murders?

    I imagine the very oxygen in the air acted as an accomplice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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