November 03, 2005

Winnipeg police break up child-sex ring

Child-sex ring uncovered in Winnipeg, police allege.

Winnipeg police say they are investigating one of the largest sexual exploitation rings ever seen in the city, allegedly involving more than 30 children ranging in age from 18 months to 17 years.

Sgt. Kelly Dennison said about 20 girls – aged 12 to 17 – were sold into prostitution.

Dennison said the other children younger than age 12, including a baby of only 18 months, weren't necessarily forced to perform sexual acts but may have been exposed to them because they lived in the houses where they were taking place.

So far, police have charged two women with procuring children for the purposes of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution and corrupting children.

The corruption charges stem from the plight of the younger children, Dennison explained.

"A minor can be corrupted if they're subjected to constant abuse, constant alcoholism, if they're in an environment where they have nowhere to go other than to observe certain things going on," he said.

Police said more arrests could be made as the investigation continues.

"Just by sheer number, it's probably the largest, or one of the largest, investigations we're doing," Dennison said.

The children involved in this case have been removed from three homes in Winnipeg's West End.

Jane Runner – who works with New Directions, an organization that helps women and children escape sexual exploitation – said the case isn't as uncommon as people would like to believe.

Runner estimated that only 10 per cent of prostitution happens on the street, where it is visible to the public.

She said the case highlights the importance of addressing the root problems that make children vulnerable to sexual exploitation: poverty, homelessness and addiction.

"If younger children are witnessing this, and this is all they're seeing, it becomes normalized, it becomes the way of life," Runner said.

"Those kids who are growing up in this kind of environment need to understand this isn't a normal behaviour, activity."

Posted by Kyer at November 3, 2005 07:56 PM | TrackBack