SYDNEY, N.S. - Cape Breton Regional Police have charged 18 men with obtaining sexual services as part of their investigation into prostitution activity in downtown Sydney.

Police say they made the arrests over a six-week period and all of the accused were released on a promise to appear in Sydney Provincial Court. The first appearance is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13 when five of the accused will appear.

“The charges come as the result of several months of targeted efforts to address another rise in this ongoing problem, once again directly affecting residents and merchants in the downtown core and raising concerns for the safety of those involved,” Cape Breton Regional Police said in a news release. “The Community Safety Enforcement Unit – with assistance from investigators and patrol officers – led an extensive investigation to identify those participating in illegal activity.”

Police say the investigation involved the use of undercover officers combined with “other specialized tools and techniques.”

“The object with an operation of this nature is to interrupt the illegal and dangerous activity that continues to disrupt our community,” Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac said in the release. “While we have made another significant impact with 18 more arrests, we know our work is far from over. There are more individuals out there exploiting women – and exploiting their vulnerable situations – which is something we take very seriously and absolutely will not tolerate.”

Police say they have laid more than 40 charges as part of this operation. In addition to obtaining sexual services, other charges include breaching a court order, theft, impaired driving, fraud, and several motor vehicle infractions.

Many business owners are glad to see the crack down on prostitution in the area. They say illegal activities were taking place at all hours of the day making shoppers feel unsafe, and hurting their bottom line.

“It was uncomfortable for staff, some of their patrons were being approached. People were nervous about going to their vehicles and even going outside sometimes,” said Sydney Waterfront District Executive Director, Michelle Wilson.

Wilson says prostitution has been an issue in the downtown area for a long time; just three years ago Cape Breton Regional Police had another major crackdown on the problem in which they charged 27 men.

 “I think it’s very unfortunate that we see a second round of charges happening, but it’s necessary,” says CBRM councilor Eldon MacDonald. “These people that are working in the streets have various issues, they need help with and be dealt with.”

The following individuals face a charge of obtaining sexual services for consideration:

  • Donald Eugene Somerton, 64, Glace Bay
  • Rocco Alexander Difabio, 53, Northside East Bay
  • Haider Alia Albaty, 34, Sydney
  • Gregory Morrison MacDonald, 58, Sydney
  • Louis Andrew Magliaro, 26, Sydney
  • Christopher John Ellerker, 52, Sydney
  • Sheldon Maclean, 81, Gardiner Mines
  • Allan David Latham, 46, Sydney
  • Arthur Gordon Pentecost, 60, Frenchvale
  • Clearance Joseph Stockey, 85, Catalone
  • Donald Anthony Hutchings, 49, Sydney
  • Francis Xavier Maclean, 62, Sydney
  • George Rene Boudreau, 64, Sydney River 
  • John Steven Maclean, 56, Sydney
  • Lawrence Samuel Moore, 59, Point Aconi
  • Paul Francis Hogan, 61, Glace Bay
  • Sheldon Vincent Braithwaite, 67, Sydney
  • Donald Stewart MacDonald, 65, Sydney River

With files from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore.