Cross-border human trafficking investigation leads to 197 arrests
Published Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:27AM EDT
Nearly 200 people have been charged and 169 people have been rescued as a result of a cross-border investigation into a human trafficking ring.
The arrests are part of "Operation Northern Spotlight," an investigation that included members of the Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and several local police forces.
The OPP said 40 local Canadian police agencies were involved, spanning from Cape Breton, N.S. to Calgary.
Officers met with people suspected of partaking in the sex trade in early October. Many of the people who met with police were suspected of being involved in the trade against their will.
As a result of the investigation, police were able to ensure the safety of 20 people who were working in the sex trade as minors or against their will. Most of the people rescued were under the age of 19, and some were as young as 14, police said.
At the same time, officers in the U.S. were led by the FBI to conduct similar meetings, in an initiative called "Operation Cross Country IX." The investigation led to the recovery of "numerous children" and the arrests of several suspects, OPP said.
A statement from the FBI said 149 sexually exploited children were recovered, and more than 150 people were arrested south of the border.
In total, at least 197 people were arrested in the two countries, and 169 people were rescued.
A range of charges were laid in both countries, including trafficking in persons, forcible confinement, child pornography and sexual assault with a weapon.