More than a hundred men who had gone online to buy sex with girls aged between 13 and 16 were arrested in an undercover police operation that spanned four years.

Project Raphael of Ontario York Regional Police began in 2014 as part of the organization’s anti-child sex trafficking strategy.

The strategy involved:

  • Rescuing victims
  • Identifying and charging those who traffic children
  • Identifying and charging those who attempted to purchase sex with children

“We stopped 104 men from purchasing 104 children,” Det. Sgt. Thai Truong said in a news conference on Friday.

All of the men responded to online advertisements for escorts then negotiated the purchase of sex for prostituted children.

Truong said officers posed as underage sex workers and chatted with the men online.

“When they arrived to essentially complete the transaction, they were arrested,” Truong said.

The men were charged with offences including communicating for the purposes of obtaining sexual services of a person under 18, and Internet luring, he said.

Those arrested ranged in ages from 18 to 71 years old. Most reside in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but some came to York Region from other provinces.

“To demonstrate the scope of the demand for prostituted children, in just three days of this investigation in 2017, the Human Trafficking Team investigators arrested 19 men who believed that they were purchasing sex from either a 13-year-old or 14-year-old child,” a statement from the York Regional Police said.

Of the 104 cases placed before the courts, 40 of the cases have been resolved, with 64 still before the courts. Five cases were withdrawn.

Of the 40 cases resolved by the courts, 32 of the accused plead guilty, four went to trial and of those four, three of them were found guilty and one man was acquitted.