Estevan Police Chief Paul Ladouceur says Estevan isn’t immune from the impacts of prostitution.
Speaking with the Mercury last week, Ladouceur said even a small city like Estevan can have prostitution occurring in the community.
“I think we’d blind to think that prostitution doesn’t happen in Estevan,” said Ladouceur.
The concern with prostitution is that it is often attached to organized crime.
“From a policing standpoint, we are concerned more with the safety of the females that are involved in that,” said Ladouceur. “It’s one thing if they’re doing it voluntarily, of their own free will. It’s another thing if they’re being forced into that situation.”
Prostitution is something that often happens behind closed doors, he said. And with the Internet being more prevalent than ever before, it’s harder to track and investigate incidents.
“Is it prevalent here? I would say it’s no more or more less than in other communities,” said Ladouceur. “It’s no different than drug trafficking. We went back years ago, we looked at smaller communities, and we didn’t see the same scale or level of drug trafficking that we saw in larger communities.
“At some point along the way, people became wiser and said there’s an untapped market there. If they start hitting these smaller communities, there’s money to be made along the way.”
Often messages that are posted online will mention escort services, he said, and will carry a message for potential clients.
If the EPS does talk to someone involved with the sex trade as part of an investigation, then they will try to talk to that person in a setting in which the individual is alone, safe and secure, allowing for a more open dialogue.
“There are many, many cases out there where women are forced into this,” said Ladouceur. “They’re forced into it for money. It’s no different than drug dealers selling drugs. Pimps are selling prostitutes, and profiting off of this, and living off the avails of that money.”
A pimp will often threaten harm to the prostitute directly or to family members. If the prostitute is from another country, the threat will involve deportation, or harm to family members back home.
“I think you have to be blind to think that there’s not some criminal contact to some of these situations,” said Ladouceur. “I’m not saying in all of them, that wouldn’t be fair either.”
Ladouceur said the EPS has received some calls about prostitution in the community, but it can be difficult to prove. They haven’t had any charges in the last few months.
Laws around prostitution have changed as well, he said, and the approach has now shifted to the safety and organized crime elements.