Friday, January, 29, 1999

New law lets Calgary cops help child prostitutes

CALGARY — The finishing touches are being put on a house in Calgary that just might help suspected child prostitutes find a way out of their life, like it or not.

'We have kids who have died as a result of being involved in prostitution Starting Feb. 1, police in this city will be allowed to arrest and lock up suspected child prostitutes, in the safe house, for as long as three days.

A harsh law, supporters admit, but a necessary one. "It's also harsh to die. And we have had kids who have died as a result of being involved in prostitution," said Madelyn McDonald who works for Wood's Homes, the safe house.

It's estimated about 100 child prostitutes are working the streets in the city of Calgary alone. Police will be able to scoop them up without a court order and lock them in the safe house, where social workers will try to talk them into getting some help.

Cheryl is a former prostitute who supports the plan. "Its about time. The girls out there are getting younger and the problem is getting worse and the violence is getting worse. It's ridiculous somebody's got to make choices for these kids, somebody's got to keep them safe and protect them." She says this law might have saved her from a decade on the street.

Former vice squad officer Ross MacInnes now works full time trying to get children off the streets. He says the new law finally recognizes that child prostitutes are victims of sexual abuse who need to be rescued. "They really want that human connection and they really want some adults in their life that really set some boundaries. With or without your permission we're not going to let you die."

The law also increases fines and jail terms for pimps and anyone caught buying a child prostitute. But it's the controversial idea of locking up children for their own good that the rest of the country will be watching. Already several provinces are considering a similar law.

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Created: December 6, 2000
Last modified: January 15, 2001
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