GLOBE AND MAIL
Wednesday, February 28, 2001
Vancouver fights 'sin city' label
Case of 11-year-old prostitute an anomaly, say police familiar with street-sex trade
VANCOUVER Local police scrambled yesterday to defend Vancouver against suggestions it has become a hot spot for child-sex tourists, after the discovery of an 11-year-old prostitute working city streets.
"I don't see us as sin city," said Detective Constable Raymond Payette of the Vancouver Police Department's vice squad.
"We're out there every day, and I don't think Vancouver's any worse per capita than Calgary or Saskatoon when it comes to child prostitution. To think that people come here just to get sex from kids it doesn't happen," Det. Constable Payette said.
A recent international report, however, alleged that child-sex tourism is a growing problem in Vancouver.
The report by End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking, sponsored by the European Union, blamed increased numbers of homeless children, the city's proximity to Asian child-sex hot spots and information on the Internet about Vancouver's child-sex trade.
Street workers in Vancouver also said there is no shortage of customers, many from out of town, for underage prostitutes.
"It's not new to have young girls selling sex on the street," said Raven Bowen, project co-ordinator for Prostitution Alternative Counselling and Education.
"They have the highest earning potential of any girls on the street. They can make quite a living here."
Ms. Bowen said Vancouver isn't any better or worse than other Canadian cities where child prostitution exists.
"But we're on the Pacific Rim and it's warm and beautiful. So people come here anyway. Then, if they can buy sex with a young girl, it's a bonus."
John Turvey of the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society said Vancouver is a long way from the youngster-ridden brothels of East Asia.
"But we are seeing younger kids brought into the business by younger pimps, and I'm sure people come here from other countries to buy that kind of sex. You can find out about it on the Internet."
Debate swirled after widespread shock and outrage over the case of the 11-year-old hooker, who was brought to the city from Portland, Ore., last week, beaten and plied with stimulants to keep her working.
She spent four days working Vancouver's so-called "kiddie stroll" on the city's east side, earning nearly $1,000, before police picked her up.
Local police say she is the youngest street prostitute they have ever encountered.
Two men and a woman from Portland are to appear in Provincial Court today, charged with a string of offences, including abduction, assault, living off the avails of prostitution and sexual interference with someone under 14.
Portland police officials say the individuals may face further charges there, if they come back to the city. The young girl, who cannot be identified, has been returned to her foster parents in Portland.
RCMP Corporal Gerry Peters of the provincial prostitution unit said he has yet to hear of tourists coming to Vancouver specifically to have sex with young prostitutes.
"But there are men out there, I call them preferential child molesters, who prefer a particular age group. It's hard to think there isn't something wrong with them."
Det. Constable Payette said he thinks the number of young prostitutes on Vancouver streets is actually decreasing. "I hate that term 'kiddie stroll.' It makes it seem as if there are large numbers of kids lined up on the street. That's just not the case. Sometimes, it's hard to find even one."
But Ms. Bowen said most child prostitution takes place off the street in so-called trick pads.
Mr. Turvey blamed police for not cracking down harder on Vancouver's child-sex trade.
Created: March 2, 2001
Last modified: March 3, 2001
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