The Toronto Police Service (TPS) Human Trafficking Enforcement team was an integral part of a collaborative multi-jurisdictional human-trafficking investigation.
The fifth phase of Operation Northern Spotlight, from October 10-16, brought together 53 police services from across North America.
Ten Toronto investigators were involved in the latest operation.
“Our team went out and got dates from online websites, mainly backpages.com, where most of the advertisements for sexual services are found,” said Detective Sergeant Nunziato Tramontozzi. “We specifically tried to target the ads that we thought were young girls.”
He said officers spoke with about 20 women at local hotels around the city.
“We talked to them to find out if they were being pimped out, if they need help from a social service agency to assist with a drug dependency or any other issue they were having,” said Tramontozzi. “They were offered the opportunity to get whatever assistance they needed to get out of the game.”
An alleged pimp, who was arrested, faces 15 charges.
During co-ordinated investigations over a six-day period, 32 people were charged with 86 offences.
Police were also able to ensure the safety of 16 people who had been working in the sex trade as a minor or against their will. Several of them were under the age of 16.
A total of 391 police officers and support staff engaged with 379 people and offered them information and contacts with community-based support agencies.
The charges include trafficking in persons under the age of 18, possession of child pornography and child luring.
Toronto Police is encouraging those wanted to escape the sex trade to come forward and report human trafficking occurrences.
“We want to make sure that everyone has access to support services and an exit strategy regardless of their decision to proceed criminally,” said Tramontozzi, of the importance of finding help for victims.
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). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.