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Calgary police launch phone line for sex trade workers to report assaults, abuse

Calgary Police Service

Calgary police have a new way for sex workers to report violence and other safety concerns.

Called the Bad Date Line, it allows those in the sex trade to report harmful, violent or abusive customers.

A dedicated phone number and email address are available for people to report information to police in a less formalized way. The info will be monitored by Calgary police officers in District 4, which covers the location of one of Calgary's last prostitution strolls.

"Historically, we know crimes against sex workers are under-reported to police for a variety of reasons," said Acting Staff Sgt. Shelby Stewart from Calgary police's District 4 Investigations Unit.

"Our intent with this initiative is to reduce barriers that may have prevented sex workers from reporting to police in the past and provide alternative options for them to report information to us."

Police say the information will not be used to target sex workers and will instead be used to investigate perpetrators.

The new reporting mechanism was developed with HER Victory, an organization that serves people who are involved with prostitution, caught in the sex trade, exploited or at risk of being trafficked.

"This will enable those caught in the sex trade to confidentially report incidents, create safe working spaces and reduce the gap between victims and police," said Jacquie Meyer, the founder of HER Victory.

"Sexual violence is frequently under-reported, this creates a safe and effective way for individuals to disclose information and receive support."

The program comes after police arrested and charged a man with kidnapping and sexually assaulting women in Calgary's sex trade.

Richard Robert Mantha, who is 59, was charged after officers cordoned off a property east of Calgary in April and brought in cadaver dogs, but police said at the time that no bodies were found.

Investigators said several women allege they were approached by a man, then drugged and taken to another location where they were physically and sexually assaulted.

"With this information we can direct our resources as necessary to keep sex workers safe, ensure sex workers have access to wraparound supports and, when required, investigate crimes that victimize sex workers," Stewart said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.