London police rescued 15 women from human traffickers in 2017

The London police human trafficking unit laid more than 200 criminal charges and rescued 15 women and girls last year, numbers obtained by CBC News reveal.

Officers laid more than 200 criminal charges and arrested 82 people during human trafficking investigations

New London police numbers reveal how many people were charged and how many rescued by the human trafficking section in 2017. (Representational Image)

CBC reporter Kate Dubinski spent time with the London Police Service's human trafficking section in December. The unit is made up of men and women who are trying to make a dent in the sex trade along Hwy. 401 in southwestern Ontario. Read Kate's series, Knock at the Door, in the coming days.

London police rescued 15 girls and women from human traffickers in the last year, numbers released to CBC News reveal. 

Police say the youngest girl rescued was 14 years of age.

A total of 16 human trafficking charges were laid as well as more than 220 other criminal code charges in 2017 

The charges were the result of the work of the London Police Service's human trafficking unit, the first full year the unit has been operating. 

The unit's latest operation was in December. It didn't see any women rescued and no human trafficking charges laid. 

But those results don't tell the whole story, said Det. Sgt. Mike Hay, who heads the human trafficking unit. 

"We've had to redefine success," he said. 

Sometimes, a successful operation might lead to no charges and no arrests, but instead a connection with a woman who reaches out for help. 

London is a hotbed for human trafficking because of its proximity to Hwy. 401. 

Hotels along the highway serve as easily accessible places for pimps to sell sex with women and girls. 

The human trafficking section focuses on long-term investigations, John stings in which officers pose as sex workers and charge men looking to buy sex, and vice probes. 

During vice probes, officers scour online escort ads, looking for signs that a woman is being trafficked. They then arrange a meeting with the woman, posing as a John, to see if she needs any help. 

Human trafficking unit statistics, 2017: 

  • 222 Criminal code charges
  • 32 Drug charges
  • 16 Human trafficking charges
  • 184 Trafficking investigations
  • 72 Vice probes
  • 4 John stings
  • 30 Johns charged
  • 15 People rescued
  • $60,000 Amount of drugs and cash seized