Manitoba

Veteran Winnipeg police officer researches child sex trade for solutions

A Winnipeg Police officer who's spent decades in the trenches rescuing sexually exploited kids is now writing a doctoral thesis about the grim industry; complete with "strong" recommendations to better protect kids today.

Officer 'passionate' his research of sex trade survivors will help stop exploitation

Winnipeg Police Service Duty Inspector Bob Chrismas. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

A Winnipeg Police officer who's spent decades in the trenches rescuing sexually exploited kids is now writing a doctoral thesis about the grim industry; complete with "strong" recommendations to better protect kids today.

It's an academic approach to a chilling phenomenon, where predators target Manitoba teens, exploit them across the country and make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits, Bob Chrismas said. 

"It's a lot more prevalent than most people realize," said Chrismas, a 27-year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service. "There are predators just down the street waiting and watching for our kids."

Chrismas is writing a doctoral thesis on the issue, make some sense of it and find solutions for it. It's a subject, he said, he is "passionate" about.

The drive that officers have to try and find closure for these families when someone's missing.... It's hard not to take it to heart.-Winnipeg Police Service Duty Inspector Bob Chrismas

"Probably the most emotionally charged and intense was when I was working in missing persons," Chrismas said. "The drive that officers have to try and find closure for these families when someone's missing. And when they know they're out there being exploited. It's hard not to take it to heart."

Especially when he recalls past cases where he's searched for missing kids, who've turned up later, dead.

"It's happened in a few cases."

Lurid and lucrative

Chrismas's experience investigating these cases provided the foundation for his research. But he's also conducted one-on-one interviews with service providers and sex trade survivors — 65 and counting — and those too, have given him more sobering insights.

Like the fact that it's estimated one "predator" can make almost $250,000 a year, exploiting just one child. Or the fact that it can take a predator just a couple of days to befriend, drug up and entrap a girl into the sex trade. (Average age of the girls lured into the trade? Just 13-years-old.)

"There is a lot of money to be made here, and that's significant," Chrismas said. "There's a lot on the line for these [predators]."

What's worse, he said, is the power of the internet. Where the cross-country selling of children's services takes place.

"We're finding prostitution and child exploitation, [and] most of it takes place over the internet," Chrismas said.

"Daunting task" ahead

Chrismas will soon wrap up his interviews and begin the "daunting task" of analyzing and summarizing it in a report that he expects to be several hundred pages long. It will include, he said, "strong recommendations" to police, service providers and the public about how to work together to stop the trafficking; recommendations he hopes will carry extra clout, because it will be in the form of a doctoral thesis.

"I want every survivor to know they have a voice," Chrismas said. "And I want to be part of the solution.....hopefully we'll have some impact."

For more on this story, tune into the CBC's Information Radio with host Marcy Markusa, at 7:50 a.m. Monday, May 2.