Police services across Canada, including Waterloo Regional Police, have been working on a national enforcement initiative to address growing concerns that young women are being forced to participate in prostitution.
The project, known as Operation Northern Spotlight, took place on January 22 to 23 and involved 26 police services in over 30 communities across the country. Over 330 women, some as young as 15, were interviewed. Investigators found a number of the women were being forced to perform sexual acts multiple times a day for paying clients.
Police say some women said they had been forced into performing sexual acts through threats of violence, drug dependency, physical intimidation and other forms of coercion.
Two arrested in Kitchener case
In Waterloo Region, police found an 18-year-old Toronto female who was allegedly forced to work as an escort in the area.
Two men, a 24-year-old from Toronto and 25-year-old from Newmarket were charged with human trafficking, receiving material benefit, procuring, sexual assault, using an imitation firearm and breach of probation.
Cpl. Judith Falbo with the RCMP's serious and organized crime unit in Kitchener, says the woman was found operating out of a hotel and told police she was involved in the sex trade against her will. Falbo says traffickers commonly rent rooms in local hotels for a period of time, then move to another town or city.
"It makes it more difficult for the victim to be recognized by somebody, and it makes it more difficult for the victim to get help," said Falbo.