Toronto police have arrested three men as part of an undercover child sex trafficking sting aimed at catching men who will pay to have sex with underage girls across the Greater Toronto Area, a CTV News Toronto investigation has learned.

Det. Dave Correa, of Toronto police’s sex crimes unit, said undercover officers put ads online to find men looking for escorts. 

When men responded to the ad, they were told they were talking to 17-year-old Sarah. But what they didn’t know is that she’s actually an undercover Toronto police officer.

After the negotiations were made, setting rates and restrictions, they met at a hotel in Etobicoke. 

“Once they arrive we identify ourselves as police officers, we place them under arrest, we secure them and we go forward with the prosecution,” Correa said. 

In one of these meetings, investigators arrested a 24-year-old construction worker, whose name has not been made public. 

The man was taken away in an unmarked car and charged with obtaining sexual services from a minor. He is scheduled to appear in court in June. 

“The problem is if we didn’t have a demand, we wouldn’t have to have a supply,” said Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Nunziato Tramontozzi. 

Investigators are also focused on finding people responsible for trafficking underage girls. 

Over the last three years, Toronto police have been ramping up the efforts of the human trafficking enforcement team to combat child sex trafficking. This involves rescuing victims, indentifying and charging those who traffic children; and identifying and charging those who attempted to purchase sex with children. 

In many cases, police explained, those involved in prostitution are forced into the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and trickery. 

Since the project started, around 200 pimps and John’s have been arrested and an estimated 1,400 charges have been laid. 

“We need to make a statement that if you want to commit this type of crime here in Toronto or anywhere in Canada, that there are serious consequences to those actions,” Tramontozzi told CTV News Toronto. 

These consequences include a minimum sentence of six months in jail, if convicted.