7 arrests, 65 charges laid in child exploitation, human trafficking investigation: RCMP – SteinbachOnline.com

7 arrests, 65 charges laid in child exploitation, human trafficking investigation: RCMP – SteinbachOnline.com

Six people from Portage la Prairie and one person from Long Plain First Nation are facing dozens of charges related to child exploitation and human trafficking.

Manitoba RCMP held a news conference on Tuesday, July 9 to announce the arrests. Inspector Shawn Pike said an investigation took place between February 2, 2024 and June 4, 2024, during which RCMP executed 10 warrants and arrested seven people.

Inspector Pike said Portage la Prairie RCMP were first notified on Feb. 2 of a young woman in the town with “older males.” Police also said they located a second young woman during the initial investigation. Both girls are 15 years old.

RCMP say throughout their investigation, they were told an adult female befriended the girls and offered to date them for drugs and money. The woman then took them to several residences where adult males were present from June 2023 to May 2024.

According to the RCMP, when the girls arrived at a home, they were allegedly offered drugs in exchange for sexual acts with men. Inspector Pike says the adult female was present during the interactions and locked the doors to the room the girls were in so they couldn’t escape.

Police allege the men also sent the girls nude images via social media apps and demanded they return images.

Computers and IT equipment, such as phones and hard drives, were confiscated during the investigation. Police also found a number of firearms and drugs in the homes searched.

Inspector Pike said the girls were groomed and controlled “in exchange primarily for methamphetamine and cocaine.”

Police believe there are other victims and Inspector Pike said she believes at least one of the victims is a 13 or 14-year-old girl who has not yet been identified.

Inspector Pike has repeatedly stressed the importance of the public contacting police when something doesn’t seem right. “If you see something, say something,” Pike said. He added that human trafficking is a vastly underreported crime and encouraged the public to be vigilant.