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Ottawa Police conduct hooker sweep

Project Reclamation targets specific 'problem' areas

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) conducted a three-day hooker sweep over the weekend of April 7, targeting Lowertown, Vanier, Rochester St in Centretown and Merrivale Rd.

A total of 28 arrests were made and 70 criminal charges were laid, including communicating for the purpose of prostitution, mischief, drug possession and breach of probation.

The sweep signals a restructuring of OPS’s response to street-level prostitution.

Murray Knowles, of the Central East District, says that in the past the sweeps have been more anecdotal than complaint driven. He says police will now target certain areas based on complaints, rather than where the sex trade activity lies.

“Our operational plans are targeting not exact locations but certain streets and that type of thing, based on community-generated calls as well as police calls,” says Knowles.

OPS have conducted hooker sweeps on a regular basis over the past two years. When Justice Himel of the Ontario Superior Court struck down three main prostitution laws in September 2010, OPS temporarily suspended hooker sweeps.

According to Knowles, OPS decided to maintain a status quo until there was a resolution in the courts. This latest sweep is a result of numerous complaints from community groups, he says.

The sweep – Project Reclamation – was conducted because sex trade activity in the targeted areas had escalated.

“We were getting a lot of community complaints that the sex trade was taking over some of the streets that had been, in the past, disappeared due to police activity, community activity and that type of thing,” says Knowles.

Of the 28 arrests made, six males and one female qualified for pre-charge diversion. They will attend the John School, a pre-charge diversion program that uses a restorative justice approach to the effects of prostitution in a community.