A 22-year-old Ontario woman who is accused of exploiting a 15-year-old and forcing her to work as a sex worker in Burlington, Ont., has been arrested, Halton Regional Police announced Friday.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Halton police officers identified and met with more than 20 sex trade workers operating in local hotels as part of a national initiative to identify victims of human trafficking and provide support to people working in the sex trade.

During one of those meetings, officers identified a 15-year-old girl being exploited as a sex worker at a hotel in Burlington.

The accused was “exercising control over the victim and facilitating her exploitation,” Halton police said in a Friday news release. The woman and the teen are not related, Det.-Const. Martin Dick told CBC News in Hamilton.

Dick would not elaborate on any details of the case as it “might identify the victim,” he said.

“We recognize there is a problem with human trafficking — not just in Halton,” he said. “We are aggressively targeting those responsible for exploitation.”

Martin did not elaborate on the details of the national initiative, citing the current investigation. He said it was a police-driven, two-day blitz initiated by multiple agencies and groups. 

Youth trafficking 'a new trend'

A 22-year-old Angus, Ont., woman was arrested and charged with trafficking a person under the age of 18; procuring a person to become a prostitute; controlling a person to engage in prostitution; and living off the avails of a person under the age of 18.

The girl has been taken to a safe place, police say.

Halton police want people working in the sex trade industry to know police “really are there to help,” Dick said.

“This is victim-centric support. We’re here for the help and support they require.”

Workers in the sex trade looking for support can contact the Walk with Me and Chrysalis organizations, police say. 

Sex trafficking involving teens and young adults is becoming increasingly common, said Timea Nagy, founder of Walk with Me, a support group created by human trafficking survivors for human trafficking victims.

“It's unfortunately a new trend,” she told CBC Hamilton, citing the recent sentencing of three teenage girls accused of running a teen prostitution ring in Ottawa involving girls between 13 and 17 years of age.

“It's the new way of making money. Traffickers recognize that so many youth are wandering the street, it's so much easier to lure them in than getting people from other countries.”