Manitoba

Winnipeg police help shine light on Canadian sex trafficking

A joint effort between 54 police forces across Canada managed to snare dozens of suspects in a nationwide human trafficking investigation.

54 police institutions across Canada, as well as FBI, arrest 32 human trafficking suspects

Operation Northern Spotlight brought 54 Canadian police services together, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S., to investigate dozens of human trafficking suspects. (CBC)

A joint effort between 54 police forces across Canada managed to snare dozens of suspects in a nationwide human trafficking investigation.

Over a six-day period in October, Operation Northern Spotlight saw almost 400 officers and investigators from the RCMP, FBI and Winnipeg Police Service, among others, investigated people accused of forcing mainly young women into the sex trade.

Collectively, police services arrested 32 suspects, police said. In Winnipeg, members of the Counter Exploitation and Missing Persons units arrested five suspects in particular for Obtaining Sexual Services for Consideration.

Authorities nationwide managed to "ensure the safety" of 16 minors, as well as a number of minors under the age of 16, Winnipeg police added.

Another 22 women between the ages of 19 and 44 believed to be "under some level of control" were consulted and offered community resources, police said.

Police interviewed 379 people during the investigation, and worked with community organizations in touch with people in the sex trade.

Suspects were charged with a total of 78 offences, including making and distributing child pornography, forcible confinement, human trafficking and assault, police said.

The recent round of arrests was part of the fifth installment of Operation Northern Spotlight, police said.

"This important initiative is a cooperative effort that brings police services together and sends a strong message to the offenders involved in organized efforts to exploit vulnerable people across geographic boundaries," Winnipeg police said in a statement.

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