The Montreal police says it's changing its approach on prostitution — it will treat them as victims and not criminals.
It says after drug trafficking, human trafficking is the second biggest crime in Montreal, that most prostitutes are victims of human trafficking and 80 percent are from Montreal.
"Talking about prostitutes in the past, we were talking about prostitutes, now we're talking about victims. Montrealers love to think that this (human trafficking) doesn't happen here. But this is girls we know, that's why we need to raise the awareness," commanger Ian Lafrenière said.
"They're either going to seduce, or manipulate her, or threaten her, in order to make her do whatever they want, they're going to force her into prostitution, and take all the money. If she doesn't make money, they're going to beat her, it's modern day slavery," detective Dominique Montchamp said.
The force has created a three year action plan that will tackle the problem in five steps.
"We want to target the traffickers, we want to go after them, we want the population and the girls to know that the police is there for them, that we can help them, assure their safety, that there's resources to get them out of that exploitation," Montchamp said.
The plan will include the creation of a special unit of officers working in the field, and with other police forces, like Laval, Longueuil and the Sûreté du Québec.
They'll also give regular officers training to identify victims.
"Saying to officers now you consider a prostitute as a victim is not going to solve the problem. We need to give them resources," Lafrenière said.
The plan will also include research, to paint an accurate picture of the problem in Montreal. And developing a centre where all resources would be available to victims, under one roof.
A budget has not been determined yet but the force says the first step is public awareness.