York regional police say they helped 31 women, who were sexually exploited and forced to work as prostitutes, as part of an investigation in December dubbed Home for Christmas.
The two-week investigation focused on locating young women in the sex trade and helping them return to their families or to a place of safety, Det. Sgt. Peter Casey said on Wednesday.
Through interviews, investigators learned that nearly 30 per cent of the girls were under the age of 18; the average age when each went into the sex trade was 14; and only 10 per cent were from York Region. The rest came from other parts of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland.
Casey said anybody could be a victim and the stats from the December are just a snapshot. In the past four or five years, York police have identified and track hundreds of people who work in the sex trade through online ads.
York police also said that 10 people were arrested and charged with criminal offences related to human trafficking and juvenile prostitution following separate investigations in January.
Three men were named including Anthony Putzu, 21, of Brampton, who faces numerous charges including human trafficking and obtaining sexual services of a person under 18, and Lucas Gabrys, 24, of London, Ont., who is accused of procuring young girls online.
In Putzu’s case, police fear there may be other victims.
Mohamed Wehelie, 28, of Toronto, is accused of sexually assaulting a sex worker that he found online. Investigators believe there may be other victims.
Click here for the names of other accused men.