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York police say 104 men arrested as part of child sex trafficking investigation

CBC logo CBC 2017-04-21 Nathan Crocker
York Regional Police arrest 10-20 impaired drivers every weekend. © Greg Ross/CBC York Regional Police arrest 10-20 impaired drivers every weekend.

York Regional Police say 104 men were arrested "for purchasing prostituted children" in a child sex trafficking investigation that lasted three years.

Det.-Sgt. Thai Truong, spokesperson for York Regional Police, said undercover officers put ads online to find men looking for sex. The sting was part of what police call Project Raphael.

When men responded to the ads, they were told that they were talking to children, aged 13 to 16. Most of the men stopped communicating at that point. The officers involved were undercover agents.

Truong said there were no actual victims in the police investigation.

"All of the men that were arrested were arrested for essentially attempting to purchase prostituted children. So if we look at it from another perspective, from a preventative measure, we've stopped 104 men from purchasing 104 children," he told reporters at York Regional Police headquarters in Aurora, Ont.

A total of 64 cases are still before the courts, while 40 cases have been resolved. A total of 32 accused men pleaded guilty, five cases were withdrawn, three went to trial and were found guilty.

Most of the arrests were in York Region, but some of the accused came from across the Greater Toronto Area and others from outside of Ontario, police said.

"The biggest challenge for us when we're dealing with prostituted children is that enlisting their co-operation is very, very difficult. Getting them to trust me, getting them to tell us what has happened is challenging," he said.

Through the project, police were trying to take the onus off the children and "go after the men that are driving this industry."

Truong said human trafficking destroys lives.

"The world of human trafficking is an ugly world," he said. Const. Andy Pattenden credited investigators for their work.

"They're passionate about it. The team in our vice unit is second to none and they've been recognized for their efforts," Pattenden said.

A grant from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services helped fund the investigation, police said.

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