• Study show spike in metro murders linked to Craigslist


    COBB COUNTY, Ga. - New numbers show a sharp spike in murders linked to Craigslist transactions in metro Atlanta.

    Two high-profile cases covered extensively on Channel 2 Action News are factored into a new study.

    Now, local law enforcement agencies are urging consumers to take specific steps to stay safe.

    Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant found when it comes to killings linked to Craigslist, Georgia has more per person than anywhere else in the country, including three in just the last two months.

    "I think people just get kind of caught up in the sale and don't think twice about it," explained Smyrna Police Officer Chris Graef.

    It's a mistake that's costing more and more Craigslist users their lives.

    "It's pretty scary,” said consumer Katie Patterson. "It definitely makes me think twice about using Craigslist."

    Patterson's response wasn't surprising after Diamant told her about a Florida-based consulting firm's latest report that linked 84 killings to Craigslist transactions nationwide since 2007.

    "That's a lot of people who shouldn't have died," said Peter Zollman, CEO of AIM Group.

    Zollman's study found the nine killings in Georgia ranked second only to the 10 killings in California, which has nearly four times the population. 

    "We're seeing an increase in this type of crime and law enforcement at this point is a bit miffed as to why," said Cobb County Police Sgt. Dana Pierce.

    In January, Ronnie Jay Towns was charged with the murders of Bud and June Runion of Cobb County. Prosecutors say Towns lured the couple to South Georgia through a Craigslist ad for a classic car.

    Three men now stand accused of killing Clark Atlanta University student James Jones, Jr. after he responded to a Craigslist ad for an iPhone last month.

    "Craigslist doesn't talk about safety and security,” Zollman said. “They have some warnings on the site. They are known for cooperating with police, but the fact is they do very little to contribute to safety and security."

    Zollman said one solution is simple, urging consumers to conduct Craigslist transactions in secured law enforcement precincts or parking lots. Local agencies like the Cobb County and Smyrna police departments already have programs in place.

    "If we can avoid one crime, that's all we need, that's a job well done," Graef said.

    Police say conducting Craigslist transactions in law enforcement parking lots will also cut down on the number of other violent crimes they see, like robberies, linked to Craigslist.

    The only way for media outlets to contact Craigslist directly is through its website, but the messages Diamant sent on Thursday were not returned.

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