For the past four years, a Toronto police unit has used undercover agents to trap some men willing to pay for sex with underage girls by posting pictures of prostitutes on the internet.
Police in York Region, north of Toronto, said their operation, called the Raphael Project, stopped 104 men who reportedly attempted to have sex with children.
Detective Sergeant Thai Truong of the human trafficking team said no girls were injured in the operation of online sexual services for girls aged 13-16.
The police have already arrested individuals who had forced children to engage in the sex trade, but legal proceedings are difficult for the victims.
Ensuring the cooperation of some child prostitutes is a daunting task, Truong said. So the police try to take away the burden and find the men who feed the industry.
Of the hundreds of men who had responded to the infiltrators’ advertisements, most stopped contacting them when they discovered that they appeared to be in contact with underage girls. But 104 of them continued.
The age of the suspects varies between 18 and 71 years, police said. Nineteen of them thought they were buying the services of girls aged 13 or 14.
Of the 104 men arrested, 32 pleaded guilty, according to Susan Orlando, the provincial coordinator of the human trafficking prosecution team.
Ms. Orlando heads a recently formed team of Crown prosecutors specializing in human trafficking crimes across Ontario.
“Almost all of these men did not have a criminal record, had stable jobs, families and were not the kind of people that would normally be seen in the criminal justice system,” she said.