Montreal

Montreal police cracking down on pimps at record rate

Montreal police are arresting an increasing number of people benefiting from sexual exploitation as part of a crack down on the sex trade.

Police say 'The Survivors' support program has helped them build confidence with victims of exploitation

Montreal police Cmdr. Michel Bourque said 41 people have been arrested in connection with the sex trade this year. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal police are arresting an increasing number of people benefiting from sexual exploitation as part of a crack down on the sex trade. 

Last year, police arrested 53 suspected pimps, double from 2015. They have already arrested 41 people in connection with the sex trade this year.

Cmdr. Michel Bourque said these 41 arrests are made up of people who work in sexual exploitation as well as their clients. The arrests come from more than 235 open case files.

"We're getting better. It's a type of crime that's very discrete. It's something that is very present in our society," Bourque said Thursday.

The increased number of arrests is being attributed to a police program called "The Survivors," which pairs former sex workers with current ones for support as they leave the world of prostitution.

Police credit the program with breaking the culture of silence that pervades prostitution networks and has limited the SPVM's ability to make arrests in the past.

​Calls to target clients

But Maria Mourani, a criminologist and former Bloc Québécois MP, questioned why police weren't also focusing their efforts on arresting clients of prostitution.

"It's easy to target pimps, but it's touchy to target johns because it could be anybody," Mourani said. "It could be a politician, it could be a businessman, it could be an artist, singer, actor, anybody."

She said police like to target pimps because, in the public's perception, they are criminals and the ones parents think are drawing their children into prostitution.

In Canada, it's illegal to buy or advertise sex, so federal law already exists to pursue johns but it needs to be enforced at the provincial level, Mourani said.

She said other police forces are already turning their attention to clients, citing the arrest of more than 100 men in the Greater Toronto Area this spring for "purchasing prostituted children."

"For me, it would be so important to see in 2018 a statistic about how many johns are arrested," Mourani said.

With files from Stephen Rukavina and Pascal Robidas

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