Thursday, February 11, 1999

Michelle Shephard

p. A1.

At 14, Kimberly is a veteran of Toronto's sex trade

Sordid story of child prostitutes unravels in court

She began selling her body when she was 11 years old. She left her family and moved from a small town in southern Ontario to Toronto. Here she found a new family.

Now, three years later, police say she's still part of a prostitution ring in the city and can't seem to break the destructive cycle.

At 14, she's a veteran of the sex trade.

The girl known on the streets as Kimberly, appeared briefly in juvenile court yesterday on a breach of probation charge.

Toronto police say they are constantly tracking the pimps who prey on vulnerable girls — sometimes as young as 10 or 11, usually runaways — to lure them into prostitution.

It's a problem that is getting worse — and the girls are getting younger. "A lot of these young girls need love and it's falsified love offered by these pimps," said Detective Mike Beauparlant.

Just on Tuesday, in a separate case, a 39-year-old Toronto cab driver was convicted of procuring a person to become a prostitute. His employee — another 14-year-old girl.

Kimberly stood in the prisoner's dock yesterday dressed in a baggy black nylon jacket over her dark tights. As soon as her handcuffs were taken off she ran her hand across her forehead, smoothing her slick blonde hair.

The pale 14-year-old glared at the few people in the courtroom and answered the judge in a quiet voice.

"She had a sad story," Beauparlant said in an interview at 52 Division on Dundas St. W. "She's already very hard-nose, very anti-establishment, street smart.… I wish her luck."

Beauparlant, one of seven detectives working with the Toronto juvenile task force which tracks young prostitutes and the people who control them, said there are many young girls who start out like Kimberly.

Runaways lured into sex trade

But most get help and stay off the streets. "She's not the norm," he said. "We often identify these girls and take them to a place of safety to break the cycle."

"But there are (still) a lot on the street and new ones every day," Beauparlant said.

Despite intervention by police, Kimberly went back to street prostitution and moved indoors to escort services, Beauparlant said. She even began coercing others to join the sex trade.

Last year she was convicted of procuring another 14-year-old girl to become a prostitute and was sentenced to 45 days in a group home. Police have been looking for her since she left the home weeks ago.

They caught up with her after responding to a 911 call Saturday night at an apartment at Sheppard Ave. E. and Bayview Ave.

A 27-year-old client of the apartment brothel had been beaten up by three men and two women, requiring more than 80 stitches to his face, after a dispute over the price of one of the prostitutes, police said.

Six people, including a 16-year-old prostitute were arrested.

'We often identify these girls and take them to a place of safety'

Police also received information that the 14-year-old prostitute was one of 12 females working at the brothel.

On Tuesday, she was arrested and charged with failing to comply with her probation.

Detective Anthony Young said police at 33 Division had begun an arson investigation over a year ago involving this brothel and another in the area.

"It's a really competitive business and there was a turf war going on between brothels," he said.

In an experiment that's being watched across Canada, a new law in Alberta gives child welfare workers and police the power to pull underage prostitutes off the streets for three days, with or without their consent.

The law doesn't put criminal sanctions on the children, but the pimps and the clients who prey on them, now face fines of up to $25.000, and up to two years in jail for child abuse.

For three days the children live in a locked house with a TV, stereo and computer and are given new clothes and assigned their own bedrooms — with teddy bears — in an effort to help them beak the cycle.

Kimberly remains in custody. A publication ban was placed on yesterday's proceedings.

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Created: February 14, 1999
Last modified: January 31, 2001
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