06/07/2015 11:06 EDT | Updated 06/07/2016 05:59 EDT

Montreal Grand Prix: Police Crackdown On Sex Tourism

On Grand Prix weekend, it's common to see women in skin-tight dresses and miniskirts perched on expensive cars, offering drinks and posing for photos on Crescent and Peel streets.

The race weekend is also the busiest time of year for women working in the sex trade. However, local police are warning tourists that they may spend more time in jail than at the racetrack if caught trying to buy sexual services.

"We are aware that in Montreal there is an increase in prostitution [in Montreal] because of the amount of tourists," said Montreal police Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin.

She said a specialized squad will be on patrol in strip clubs, hotels, motels, massage parlours, as well as on all the sites in the city related to the Grand Prix festivities.

Paquin said more than 300,000 F1 race enthusiasts attend the Grand Prix race, and that doesn't include tourists in town who may visit the festival sites but not the actual event. 

She said police will be especially focused on watching for the presence of minors and johns where prostitution is known to take place. Escort websites are also being monitored by police.

Since Canada's new prostitution laws came into effect last December, it is now a criminal offence to sell the sexual services of another person and to buy sexual services.

"The new law… give us more tools in our tool box," Paquin said.

Protests against sexual exploitation

Protesters gathered in downtown Montreal on Saturday to raise awareness about the kinds of sexual exploitation the Grand Prix brings.

Earlier in the week, other groups including members of feminist organization FEMEN, protested against the sexual underbelly of the race weekend.

Shanie Roy, a former sex-trade worker who began working as a prostitute at the age of 16, said she doesn't miss her experiences working the annual Grand Prix weekend.

She said Grand Prix clients, pumped by the atmosphere of the festivities and far from their responsibilities at home, were more demanding than other clients.

"They are asking for more. They really want to have [a good] trip and a bigger experience. They are really going to insist to have something, they are not going to respect your limits," Roy said.

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