Following the tragic news of three underage teens in Portage la Prairie who were lured into sexual exploitation by at least seven adults, the RCMP is spreading word that someone in Portage gave a tip that stopped it in its tracks. 

RCMP media relations officer Tara Seel says people fortunately recognized the signs and provided tips.

"This type of thing is not specific to Portage la Prairie. Luckily, we had investigators in Portage who recognized the signs when they got the tip and they were able to follow up. We're also very fortunate that we have such a dedicated group in our Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit that the Portage attachment was able to call on to come and assist with that investigation. First and foremost, our concern is always the victim, so it's getting them to a safe place. It's getting them the wraparound supports that they need."

She notes the next priority was arresting the culprits responsible. This is where the ICE unit shines.

News conference with Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox and Councillor Colin Doyle presentNews conference with Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox and Councillor Colin Doyle present

"We did several warrants and we're able to get devices. So, we seized those devices. We're continuing to examine them forensically to see what we can pull off that. There could very well be more charges coming out of this. I do have to say this was a fairly organized operation in terms of knowing each other. One individual was befriending and taking them to people. The way they used Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, it was all quite an organized effort. This isn't something that's just happening haphazardly. Unfortunately, there's organization to this and and children are falling victim."

Knowing that this sort of thing carries on, while many are hesitant to help and report suspicious activity, the RCMP needs the community to really partner with them. 

"Let us know when something doesn't seem quite right when something like this happens. This could have been going on for years, and they just haven't been caught til now. That's why it's so important for the community to partner. If we hadn't got a tip saying, 'Hey, there's this young girl who's seen been seen with several older gentlemen. This doesn't seem right;' we wouldn't be here today."

Seel can't stress enough how vital tips are for breaking up these child exploitation rings.

"I really think knowing the signs to look for include anything that seems out of the ordinary. If anything's raising your suspicions, and just doesn't seem right, there's no harm in calling and just saying, 'This is what I saw, this is what I feel.'"

She adds if anything comes of a tip, the police will be able to follow up. 

"I really want to stress that this isn't a Portage-specific thing. This particular investigation happened in Portage, but this is happening everywhere. We don't want Portage to be painted with a certain brush because this isn't something that's area-specific. Our hearts go out to these victims. They're just girls. They've been horribly taken advantage of and, luckily, we at this point, have been able to lay some charges on those individuals who are taking advantage of them. But that doesn't end for the victims or the survivors. They still have to continue on and they still have to find a way forward."

She notes everything will be done to help the victims. The RCMP connects them with therapists and agencies related to what these girls require. 

"If anyone has something to report and they're not comfortable going to the police -- and we recognize that that's happening -- you can always call agencies like Klinic Community Health and they are a third-party reporter. You can report a sexual assault to Klinic and they will provide that report to the police while the victim remains anonymous. We're doing everything in our power to find the people that are taking advantage of people in a sexual or any other manner."