Nine arrested in ‘john sting’ in Abbotsford

The men ranged in age from 22 to 80 and all were first-time offenders.

A 'john sting' in Abbotsford resulted in the arrests of nine men last week. The photo above shows a similar operation conducted in Surrey.

A 'john sting' in Abbotsford resulted in the arrests of nine men last week. The photo above shows a similar operation conducted in Surrey.

A “john sting” late last week in Abbotsford resulted in the arrests of nine men ages 22 to 80.

Const. Ian MacDonald said the sting was conducted Thursday and Friday in the downtown core and along the Clearbrook Road corridor to target people soliciting sex-trade workers.

MacDonald said all the arrested men were first-time offenders and have the option of attending “john school” rather than proceeding with criminal charges through the court system.

John school is designed to educate participants about the negative consequences of prostitution and the victimization of women.

MacDonald said the Abbotsford Police Department typically conducts john stings about twice a year, usually precipitated by concerns from sex-trade workers.

For example, he said the latest sting resulted after police received complaints about “bad dates” – men who either become violent or refuse to pay.

Previous stings resulted in men being arrested who were carrying weapons that included knives and zap straps, MacDonald said.

He said police typically target the johns, rather than the sex-trade workers, because prostitution is recognized as the victimization of women who often have addiction issues or sexual-abuse histories.

“If you think of the women involved in the sex trade as your daughters, mothers, sisters or aunts, you’ll see why we go after the consumers.”

MacDonald said prostitution in Abbotsford isn’t as visible as it once was, due to the rise in online solicitation that has taken the sex trade off the streets.

He said this relatively new form makes it more difficult for police to monitor the sex trade in the community.

“Unfortunately, in these cases, we end up responding more to calls after the fact, so you’ll hear about a bad date or you’ll hear about someone being ripped off.”

Last year, an Abbotsford man was charged with eight counts after two women  selling massage services on craigslist reported that he had sexually assaulted them in his apartment, in separate incidents.

One set of charges proceeded through the court system, and Paul Williams Holmes received a 19-month prison sentence in January of this year for unlawful confinement and uttering threats.