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Hits galore on 'drugdeal.com' May 29, 2005 - nypost.com
The NYPD has busted a drug dealer operating on craigslist, where they say a full menu of popular drugs are being peddled under code names like "tina."
Last week, a man offering "tina" - or crystal meth - on the personals section of the popular Web site was arrested after an almost yearlong investigation that led to three buys and one bust.
Cops noticed the suspicious post, contacted the dealer via e-mail, and after quickly exchanging information, began to talk on the telephone to set up the phony buys. After three successful street transactions, he was busted at his apartment.
"The number of people doing this online is increasing, especially recently," said Capt. Lori Pollock, commanding officer of the NYPD's Manhattan South Downtown Narcotics District. "You still see street sales, but not as often as you see Internet cases."
The Post found dozens of suspicious ads for "tina," code for crystal meth; "ski," code for cocaine; and "420," code for marijuana, on the New York section of craigslist, which had 1.3 million visitors in April.
One coded post read, "Ski bunny wants to ski this afternoon - anyone have equipment?" Another read, "Looking to party with a great chick named tina: has anyone seen her?" Other posts get cute, using names like "Christina Aguilera" and "Tina Turner" to sell drugs.
Most of the ads were found in the personals section.
Pollock said some of the ads may be from phony dealers - but enough are real, so the NYPD is surfing the Internet to combat the trend.
And it's a tough task. "The lingo is always changing," Pollock said. She said cops interview dealers they've already busted to try to keep on top of the street names.
Many of the dealers use Internet cafes, libraries and store computers to post ads, so they can't be traced.
And identifying suspects before meeting them is crucial, Pollock said. If police know where to find a suspect, they can compile their evidence after a buy and make an arrest later - even if the dealer stops responding.
"A lot of these end in dead ends," Pollock said. "The goal is to identify these people before we meet them for the first buy. If we can't ID them, often we don't go out on it."
Another police investigation, launched after The Post first heard of the trend, ended when cops couldn't trace the dealer.
The dealer wrote in an e-mail: "We will meet . . . but this is a buisness [sic]. And delivery means u give money i give u tina we part . . . u email me again if u want more another time . . . no taste tests or s - - t like that . . . sorry . . . if we r cool then let me know. 1 gram is 200."
Although cyber-dealers are using several Web sites, craigslist is the most popular choice.
Site founder Craig Newmark said he knew there would be problems when he started a free classifieds site in 1995, and said he counts on users to report - or "flag" - suspicious posts.
"There is abuse on the site," Newmark said. "People have been very good about getting rid of crap by flagging."
He added, "If something's illegal, it's just not OK."