Okotoks RCMP have laid a series of charges after they say some local teens were recruited through social media and exploited for sex. Mounties say the investigation launched by a school resource officer revealed that five teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 16 had been victimized.
The teens are now being helped by Child and Family Services and Foothills Victim Services.
Samantha Pedersen, 23, of High River is facing five counts of trafficking in persons under 18 years, five counts of procuring persons under 18 years, four counts of living off the avails of prostitution, four counts of sexual exploitation of a young person and one count of assault.
Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson called the case distressing.
“My full sympathies go out to the families of those that are involved in this,” he said.
Robertson, who was an elementary school teacher in Okotoks until five years ago, said he might have even taught some of the teens.
“It’s very distressing to hear that this may have been going on in relation to youth in our town,” he said.
“We certainly want to ensure the safety and the due diligence of all parents toward the safety of their children, and we try and put practices in place to encourage good parenting and protection from predators.”
Robertson added the Internet is “a whole new ball game” with regard to safety issues.
“Youth and kids in our town are so important,” he said.
“They’re the ones who are going to come up with the answers to the problems we can’t solve today. It’ll be the youth of today and the adults of tomorrow that solve all those problems, and being exploited in this manner certainly is a huge blow to youth everywhere.”
Pedersen is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 28. Anyone with information related to the investigation is being asked to call Okotoks RCMP.