Complaints of unlicensed escorts passing through Calgary are on the rise and police fear those involved are adding to the city’s sex trade problem.

Data provided by the city’s business license sector indicates there are approximately 120 legitimate escorts in Calgary represented by 19 agencies; however, police staff Sgt. Steven Drennan believes there are potentially hundreds more operating illegally over short-term periods.

“It’s definitely a trend we are seeing . . . some of these girls are coming in from out of country,” he said.

Based on what police have gathered, the escorts travel frequently between major Canadian cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto, to name a few — in hopes of evading law enforcement. They rely on Internet ads to attract customers, posing as escorts but often including a willingness to “do more.”

To gain a sense of the issue, police responded to the ads of six escorts last week but found only two were licensed.

“It certainly creates a difficulty for us,” Drennan said. “In you look at the Criminal Code, prostitution is not illegal, communication in public is.”

City chief license inspector Kent Pallister said legitimate escort agencies have also taken notice of their short-term competitors, as objections have begun pouring into his office.

“We do find out who they (the escorts) are, but to catch them can be difficult,” he said.

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