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York Regional Police Det. Truong said that no victims of human trafficking were involved in the project and all of the suspects, who ranged in age from 18 to 81, were arrested for attempting to purchase sex with children. Human trafficking investigators launched Project Raphael in , which Truong said was a three-pronged approach to combating the issue in the region. Catherine McDonald reports. Police targetted pimps, focused on rescuing victims and connecting them with community support workers and attempted to stop the demand for prostituted children.
In total, there were 10 arrests in , 22 in , 53 in , and 19 in Forty of those cases have concluded, while 65 are still before the courts. Five of the cases had been withdrawn while three went to trial and the suspects were found guilty. Of the arrests, 32 of the suspects had pleaded guilty with sentences ranging from three to seven months.
Investigators researched the number underage human trafficking survivors in and found they accounted for 33 per cent of all victims. In late , police launched an initiative over the holidays to reconnect children forced into prostitution with their families. Investigators identified 31 human trafficking victims in the region working in hotels — nine of whom were under the age of 18 and reconnected with their support network.
In , police conducted further research into the number of prostitution victims that were rescued in York Region and found 45 per cent were children. Truong said the most difficult part of the investigation was gaining the trust of the victims.
Police said in many cases, those involved in prostitution are forced into the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and trickery. Orlando said the suspects were from the Greater Toronto Area, throughout Ontario and from other provinces.