Longueuil police launch new team to support victims of sexual exploitation

"Police officers who don't ask 'who, what, where' but ask 'what do you need?' — for us, it's a revolution," said Longueuil police Chief Fady Dagher, describing an initiative aimed at keeping victims of sexual exploitation from falling through the cracks, once they become adults.

Integrated team to help vulnerable young adults get treatment for PTSD, drug addiction

Longueuil police Chief Fady Dagher, centre, announced the new team alongside the city's mayor, Sylvie Parent, and Sherry Romanado, MP for Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

"Police officers who don't ask 'who, what, where' but ask 'what do you need?' — for us, it's a revolution," said Longueuil police Chief Fady Dagher, describing an initiative aimed at keeping victims of sexual exploitation from falling through the cracks, once they become adults.

Dagher announced Wednesday the creation of a new intervention and support team for young people who have been recruited into the sex trade or are at risk of being recruited.

Backed by $852,102 over the next five years from the federal government's crime prevention action fund, the team will target victims of sexual exploitation aged 17 and up.

It will partner with the two South Shore regional health and social service agencies to reach vulnerable young people who are in youth protection, putting them in touch with other support services before they age out of the system.

The support will include treatment for post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, as well as drug and alcohol counselling, and help finding employment and shelter.

Pressure on pimps

Police will also partner with the organization CLES, which helps women involved in prostitution leave the sex trade, as well as Le 2159, an organization and shelter for at-risk youth. 

The team will include a psychosocial co-ordinator responsible for making contact with young victims and guiding them towards the proper services,  and a liaison officer who will be responsible for co-ordinating with other members of Longueuil police.

Dagher said police are transforming their approach to sexual exploitation investigations, in order to put victims first. 

However, he said this new approach doesn't mean that police will stop putting pressure on pimps, as a way to fight sexual exploitation.

Longueuil police more than 100 people are currently being sexually exploited on their territory or are at risk of sexual exploitation. 

According to CLES, the average victim of sexual exploitation enters into prostitution just before the age of 15. 

About the Author

Ainslie MacLellan

Ainslie MacLellan is a journalist at CBC Montreal. Follow her on Twitter: @CBCAinslie.