In a child sex trafficking sting operation that has been conducted over a period of four years, 104 men from Canada (mostly in the Ontario region) were arrested. They were charged with purchasing prostituted children.
There were no specific victims in this child sex trafficking investigation because it was based on an undercover operation to find the men who were seeking underage children. Undercover officers worked to find the men through online ads, and the project was dubbed Project Raphael.
Project Raphael has helped to shed light on the demand for child sex trafficking in Canada, specifically in the York Region of Ontario.
Men who responded to ads were informed that they were speaking with children – specifically, children who were between the ages of 13 and 16. CBC News says that when the men were informed that they were communicating with children, “[m]ost of the men stopped communicating right away.”
The men who did not stop communicating and persisted in conversing with the other parties, who they thought were children but were actually undercover officers, were arrested. Det. Sgt. Thai Truong, who is a spokesperson for the York Regional Police, told CBC that this was a preventative measure that stopped 104 children from being purchased from child sex trafficking rings.
The demographics of the men who were arrested in this child sex trafficking sting are varied. The youngest man was 18 and the oldest was 71. There were married and single men, and they worked at a variety of different types of jobs. The majority of the men were first-time offenders and were given sentences of three to seven months. Of these 104 arrests, there are still 64 cases before the courts.
In the York Region of Ontario alone, there have been significant findings regarding child sex trafficking. The Stratford-Beacon Herald found that research in 2012 discovered that 33 percent of sex trafficking victims are children.
In 2013, “They found 31 females working in the sex trade… Nine of those females were under 18” in York Region hotels while they were conducting an investigation to find a specific underage child who they suspected was involved in child sex trafficking.
Child sex trafficking is a difficult world to investigate because even when child victims are discovered, they are very distrustful and it is hard to get them to communicate about their experience. The children who are involved in child sex trafficking are often abused and coerced and threated by those who have prostituted them; they sometimes come from abusive family situations, too. By going after the men who seek out children either for child sex trafficking or to purchase child prostitutes, authorities are able to take the pressure off the children.
Project Raphael, which started in 2014, focuses on rescuing victims of child sex trafficking and finding the ones who are behind the child sex trafficking rings. They also charge the ones who attempt to procure children on social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat and through online ads. Child sex trafficking rings are more and more creative online, and technology makes it easier for them to make children available to the people who want to purchase sex activities with them.
Child sex trafficking is growing and it is our most vulnerable citizens that are at risk – children.
Parents should be reminded to talk to their children about the dangers that exist on the internet, including not speaking to strangers and letting their parents know if anything suspicious happens. Children should also talk to an adult if they think a friend is engaging in dangerous activities online. Talk to your children about social media and ensure that your children’s social media app settings are secured to ensure their privacy.
If you have any knowledge about child sex trafficking or suspected child sex trafficking, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
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