MONTREAL (AFP) - Police in Toronto on Friday (April 21) announced the arrests of more than 100 men accused of using the Internet to solicit sex with minors as young as 13.
In all, 104 men were arrested over a four-year period, said Detective-Sergeant Thai Truong, who headed the investigation.
Police launched the inquiry after discovering in 2013 that a third of women prostitutes arrested in the Toronto suburb of York were aged 18 or less, with an average age just under 15.
Officers pretending to be young girls posted online ads. When potential clients were told the "girls" were aged 13 to 16, most men dropped the matter, but 104 attempted to arrange meetings and were subsequently arrested.
So far, 35 of the 104 have pleaded guilty or confessed, leading to prison terms of three to seven months. The other cases are still before the courts.
Ten of the arrests were made in 2014, 22 in 2015, 53 last year and 19 so far this year.
Police said dismantling child prostitution rings was always difficult: young people pressed into prostitution sometimes live in fear and are not always willing to denounce their pimps.
Of 85 adolescents arrested on prostitution-related charges in Toronto-area hotels, only 49 have denounced their pimps or the people who sold them into prostitution, Truong said.
Police had tried to help the young people, providing services or reuniting them with family members, he said. But even when the young women showed signs of bruising or other abuse, many refused to identify the aggressors.