A crackdown on prostitution in downtown Chilliwack has led to charges against 21 alleged sex workers and nine suspected johns.
After receiving numerous complaints from local merchants and residents, the RCMP's crime reduction unit spent five weeks investigating the sex trade in the downtown core.
Over that time period, officers identified 52 possible sex trade workers. After identifying the suspected prostitutes, Mounties spent three weeks concentrating their efforts on a "red zone"designated as the area between Nowell Street in the west, Williams Street to the east, Bole Avenue to the north and Princess Avenue to the south.
"The project was aimed at relieving some of the incidents of crime experienced in the downtown core," said RCMP spokesperson Corp. Tammy Hollingsworth in a news release. "Children going to and from the schools on Yale Road, merchants, and residents in the area had all expressed concerns over the number of sex trade workers lurking and working in that area."
Nine men were charged with communication for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. The oldest of the alleged "johns" was 82 years old. Their cases are winding their way through the court system, but already one man has pleaded guilty and been handed a suspended sentence and six months probation.
Six of the 21 women arrested and charged had been arrested during the first two weeks of the investigation and ordered to not enter the "red zone." They were re-arrested during the three-week sting and charged with breaching their conditions. They and 15 other women were also charged with communication for the purpose of prostitution. The youngest of the women was 18. All but one told police that they have a drug problem.
At least three have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to one year of probation.
"Though some may argue that prostitution and patronizing a prostitute are victimless crimes, the police don't see it that way," said Hollingsworth. "No young girl grows up dreaming of doing this. Most of these street workers have had a rough life and are being exploited and degraded."
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