The objective of this study was to increase understanding of the interactions between police and commercially sexually exploited (CSE) youth.
Analysis of 34 interviews conducted with CSE youth revealed four themes: (1) police who arrest youth instead of providing them with help or resources; (2) police whose focus was on exposing the traffickers rather than youths’ needs; (3) experiences of violence and threats by the police; and (4) positive treatment of CSE youth by the police. Together, these themes suggest that although some CSE youth have positive interactions with police, most continue to be treated like juvenile delinquents rather than victims of crime. Their needs were overlooked in the criminal justice system, as the apprehension and prosecution of traffickers took precedence. Implications for improving police policy and practice include better laws and enforcement, improved identification, and raising awareness about CSE among police. (publisher abstract modified)