Charges laid against a Red Deer man for allegedly forcing a girl into the sex trade should be a wake-up call for police in smaller towns and cities, according to a former Edmonton vice squad detective.
"It's not expected. People aren't looking out for it. Kids aren't as street-proofed in small towns," said Jo Ann McCartney, who works for the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation in Edmonton.
Last week, Red Deer RCMP laid nine charges against a 40-year-old man including sexual assault and procuring prostitution. They allege the man befriended a girl under 18, gave her illegal drugs and then forced her to work as a prostitute.
The case was the first arrest of its kind in Red Deer and a surprise for RCMP, said Const. Sabrina Grunow. Police are investigating if there are other cases involving young girls in the city.
"The case we're looking at in particular kind of begs the question if there are more victims out there and they just aren't forthcoming," Grunow said. "We have … been speaking to the public to come forward if they know of anyone or if they, themselves, have been a victim."
Small Alberta towns can be recruiting grounds for pimps who take girls to larger cities like Edmonton, McCartney said. That's why police need to keep an eye out for potential cases.
"If you can send a message to the pimps that … it's not tolerated in this town and we will be on top of this, we will lay charges against you," she said. "Then they're going to find a different small town to go to."