Small squad tackles big problem

Police focus on youth in the sex trade

  • Jan. 25, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Cst. Theresa Tuttle is going to bat for youth involved in the sex trade.

Police focus on youth in the sex trade

Constable Theresa Tuttle is the compassionate squad of one who is going to bat for youngsters in the clutches of the sex trade. The member of the Victoria Police Department has been working the Mobile Youth Service Team (MYST) beat for about a year.

Constable Tuttle was in Sooke on January 17, bringing the District’s Committee of the Whole up to speed on the MYST program.

Tuttle’s efforts take place across the Capital Region and portions of the program’s funding come from the various jurisdictions therein.

Sooke had apparently withheld its latest contribution of $1,687.03. Mayor Janet Evans explained.

“We hadn’t heard how it was going, whether it was successful or what. So we didn’t want to just write a cheque.

“With her explanation… she’s just been at it a year… the information she provided was exactly what we were looking for. They got the point across and it’s well worth it.”

District Council, one week later, voted to provide funding.

In basic terms the program is a challenge for Cst. Tuttle… a very high stakes battle for the minds and bodies young people. She outlined the scope of the problem and indicated that no part of the Capital Region is immune from the damaging effects of the sex trade.

The value of a program with a worker who is free to cross municipal boundaries was emphasized, first by Cst. Tuttle and also by Bill McElroy, a longtime volunteer and Sooke resident with considerable related experience.

Tuttle, the following day at Victoria Police Headquarters, was asked about the scope of youth in the sex trade, whether it could be described, for example, as an epidemic.

“I don’t know about that, but for a family, for a youth involved, it’s critical…” she said, “it’s devastating.”

There are numerous aspects of the process leading an innocent young person toward the sordid sex trade – Tuttle and McElroy both pointed out how gradually the recruitment occurs. It’s likely to start out with expensive gifts, complements, and all-too-frequently, with drugs. In fact, if there were one component they could tackle on the way to dealing with the problem, both agree the component would be drugs.

Councillor Maja Tait, at the Jan. 17 C.O.W. meeting, weighed in on the issue relating a personal experience.

She described being on the bus and happening to witness a couple of “very healthy looking young girls.” She said she overheard “talking and texting” which amounted to negotiations for sex with a “smelly old guy” for as little as a “six pack of Lucky.”

This sort of account went a long way toward portraying the immediacy of the issue.

All in attendance agreed that any continuing effort and expense to prevent the recruitment of youth for the sex trade, or the rescue of those already involved, is well spent.

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