Craigslist is a terrific site in many ways. But it has a terrible safety record. While Craigslist has facilitated millions of transactions, not all of them go well. Rip-offs, robberies or rapes related to Craigslist are reported almost every day. And the rate of killings tied in some way to Craigslist is staggering. The list below is not necessarily complete (sadly). We also have broken down the types of killings; how the victims were lured to their deaths, and more. It’s a devastating story.

We highlight these killings only because we believe Craigslist should do much more to promote safety among its users, and because SafeTrade is the best way to stay safe when you’re trading in person through Craigslist or any other Internet site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

At least 84 'Craigslist Killings' since 2007

From 2007 to Feb. 28, 2015, at least 84 people have been killed as a result of a connection they made on Craigslist – including four in the first six weeks of 2015.

Eighty-three deaths took place in the U.S. One death took place in Australia in December 2014, after the victim answered a personals ad on one of Craigslist’s Queensland sites.

Is this a definitive list? We doubt it. It’s a list of what we could find in Internet searches of news stories that involve the initial crime reports, and in most cases, subsequent arrests and convictions of the killers.

We have no idea how many how many killings might have occurred in which investigators failed to make a Craigslist connection, or how many times news reporters didn’t notice because Craigslist connections weren’t highlighted on the police blotter or otherwise pointed out to them.

Who would know? Likely, Craigslist has a more accurate number. For years, Craigslist has emphasized its willingness to work with police when asked. According to most reports, investigators combed through email exchanges, browser histories and mobile phone records to hunt down the killers. It’s reasonable to assume that homicide detectives reached out to Craigslist in more cases than not – at least in the U.S.

Is Craigslist culpable?

No. Craigslist is not to blame for the actions of predators of any sort. Also, the U.S. Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects Craigslist and all other electronic “forums” from civil and criminal liability over the actions of its members. We certainly don’t hold Craigslist responsible. 

However, we would like to see Craigslist take more responsibility for the protection of its users. At this writing, its “Personal Safety” page lists seven “simple precautions” and links to four websites where its members can read more about safety.

How hard would it be to flag high-dollar, highly portable, easily fenced items such as mobile phones, watches and jewelry with an automated messages that encourage extra precautions?

How the 85 died
  •         43 victims were shot (52%).
  •         8 victims were stabbed (9%).
  •    8 were strangled (9% after rounding).
  •    5 were bludgeoned (6%).

Counted separately were incidents where victims were bludgeoned and shot, kidnapped and shot, stabbed and shot, bludgeoned and burned, stabbed and burned, stabbed and strangled, tied and throat slit. One victim was kidnapped, bound, killed by undisclosed means and buried. Another was buried alive. One victim was raped and given a lethal injection of heroin, after which her corpse was defiled. One victim died after a night of sex and drugs; her paramour burned her body in his backyard barbecue pit. Four deaths were positively linked to a known prolific serial killer; three other deaths were the work of two men.  A few other killers admitted killing for the thrill of it; one said he “hoped to do it again.” One full-term infant died as the result of her mother’s death. Another baby was cut from her dead mother’s womb but was declared stillborn, so law officers didn’t count the child among the killings.

How they were lured to their deaths
  •     18 answered or placed a personals ad (21%).
  •    16 wanted to sell a vehicle (19%).
  •    12 sought to sell sex (14%).
  •    7 wanted to sell a mobile phone (8%).
  •    5 wanted to buy a mobile phone (6%).
  •    4 answered a job ad (5%).
  •    3 wanted to buy a vehicle.
  •    3 wanted to sell a game system.
  •    3 wanted to sell jewelry.
  •    2 placed a job ad.
  •    2 sought to buy sex.
  •    2 sought to lease rooms.
  •    2 wanted to sell a computer or tablet.
One person died in each of these ad transactions: sought a roommate, sought to buy a game system, sought to buy a computer or tablet, sought to sell medical marijuana.

One suspect’s death is attributed to his partner in crime, who shot him because he was bragging about their successful robbery spree.

Safety usually ignored

In nearly every case, victims appeared to have taken no extraordinary precautions to keep themselves safe.  However, in one case, the victim, who sought to buy a vehicle, prudently met his killers at a restaurant; sadly, he bought their story that they needed a ride home. In another, the seller was robbed and killed in a public park, in broad daylight.

The obvious perspectives

From 2007-2013, one in 1,574 U.S. homicides was a “Craigslist killing.” (According to FBI’s full-year Uniform Crime Reporting data, 94,432 people were slain in the U.S. between 2007 and 2013. Full-year data for 2014 are not compiled yet. We divided the FBI’s number by 60 – the number of slayings we found through 2013.)

 How many safe transactions were conducted on Craigslist between 2007 and February 2015? More millions than even Craigslist can count.

So statistically, Craigslist is a safe place to conduct business.

Except when it isn’t. 

The perspective you don’t see

Digging through news accounts, poring over trial testimonies, obituaries, memorials and social-media tributes – underscores the only perspective that truly matters:  These killings shattered families forever and years later continue to crack the safety and security of whole communities.  To reduce these deaths to statistics is to dishonor the dead and those who loved them.

For this reason, we have listed the victims but we don’t get into the tragic details of each individual's death, even though we compiled that information.  We linked each incident to its unique search result for anyone who might seek to research. 

Finally, we make no promise that we will continue to update this list. It's an egregious exercise. Enterprising reporters are welcome to use this list as a starting point. We suggest they set their news traps for any future mentions, as we did.