A multi-police service operation designed to give young women and girls support in leaving the sex trade resulted in charges against two men.
A total of 17 police services along with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Mounted Canadian Police were part of Operation Northern Spotlight on June 17 and 18.
At a news conference at police headquarters, Sex Crimes Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins said 90 officers contacted and interviewed 122 people offering them support services in their jurisdictions over a two-day period.
“Police were also able to ensure the safety of six females who had been working in the sex trade as minors or against their will,” she said. “‘We want to ensure everyone has access to support services and an exit strategy regardless of their decision to proceed criminally.”
The girls’ who accepted help from the police ranged in age from 14-19.
Beaven-Desjardins said the teenagers were being exploited by pimps who pretend to be a boyfriend and buy them gifts and then begin to groom them for prostitution, telling the girls that they owe them something in exchange for their kindness.
“These guys are professionals at knowing what vulnerabilities that child has and they become what that person wants,” she said, noting it is difficult for women to break this cycle. “All their rights are taken away, it’s very, very hard for them to leave this type of lifestyle.”
During the operation, Durham Regional Police conducted met with a 14-year-old girl who revealed she was forced into prostitution by a pimp identified as Levi Alexander, who is on a Canada wide warrant for human trafficking charges by Toronto Police in relation to an investigation – Project Guardian – that culminated last April with nine arrests.
Alexander, 19, was charged in that investigation with trafficking in persons under 18 years, material benefit, exercise control, obstruct justice and obtain bail in false name. She said he is known to operate across Canada.
Beaven-Desjardins said Operation Northern Spotlight emphasizes the importance of police working together and with other community partners to combat human trafficking in the province.
“The sharing of information between Services is critical to the success of assisting the victims and apprehending the traffickers,” she said. “Human trafficking is occurring in all urban areas. It is a local, provincial and national problem that affects the most vulnerable in society.”
Police are encouraging victims to come forward and report human trafficking occurrences even if they do not choose to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7474, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook. Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.