Six people from Portage la Prairie and one person from Long Plain First Nation are facing dozens of charges in relation to child exploitation and human trafficking.

Manitoba RCMP held a press conference on Tuesday, July 9, announcing the arrests. Insp. Shawn Pike says that an investigation took place between Feb. 2, 2024, and June 4, 2024, throughout which Mounties executed 10 warrants and arrested seven people.

Insp. Pike says that the RCMP in Portage la Prairie was first notified on Feb. 2 of a female youth who was seen around the city with "older men." Police say they also located a second young female at the time of the initial investigation. Both girls are 15.

The RCMP says that throughout their investigation they were told that an adult female befriended the girls and offered for them to hang out for drugs and money. The woman then took them to multiple residences where adult males were present from June 2023 to May 2024.

When the girls arrived at a home, the RCMP allege that the girls were offered drugs in exchange for sexual acts with men. Insp. Pike says that the adult female was present in the interactions, and would lock the doors to the room in which the girls were located and that they could not escape.

Police allege that men also sent the girls nude images over social media apps and required the girls to send images back.

Computers and computer-related devices such as phones and hard drives were confiscated in the investigation. Police also found a number of guns and drugs in the homes that were searched.

Insp. Pike says that the young girls were groomed and controlled "In exchange for mostly methamphetamine and cocaine."

Police believe there are more victims and Insp. Pike says they believe at least one of the victims is a 13 or 14-year-old girl who has not yet been identified.

Insp. Pike drove home the fact multiple times the importance of the public reaching out to police when something doesn't seem right. "If you see something, say something," Pike says. He says that human trafficking is a vastly under-reported crime and encourages the public to be vigilant.