Sex workers and their advocates are criticizing actions taken by police officers at the beginning of the summer tourist season.

Montreal police have stepped up their actions against sexual exploitation, as the force frequently does at this time of year, this time with a program called RADAR.

Officers are talking to employees of hotels, bars, and other locations about how to identify sex workers and how to approach law enforcement.

Sandra Wesley, the executive director of the sex worker advocacy group Stella, said that police operation is affecting the safety of sex workers.

"For sex workers who are in situations of violence or even forced to work in the industry, unwanted contact with police only increases their marginalization and makes it more likely they'll have a hard time coming out of that situation," said Wesley.

A Montreal police source told CTV News that police are conducting systematic sweeps with the goal of finding minors working in the sex trade.

Police officers are also taking detailed notes on employees in strip clubs and massage parlours, including photographing tattoos and piercings.

They said while establishment owners are required to cooperate, sex workers themselves are only interviewed on a voluntary basis, and that after being interviewed sex workers are given a stamp as an "efficient" way of keeping track of who they've spoken to.

"The pretense that making databases of sex workers and raiding our workplaces and asking every hotel worker and taxi driver to denounce us to police to protect us is absurd. If anyone actually takes the time to think of us as human beings trying to make a living and not helpless victims who are somehow just waiting to be rescued," said Wesley.

Those fighting to eliminate sexual exploitation said the activity frequently increases during the Grand Prix, but sex workers dispute that.

Wesley said that if authorities were really concerned about keeping sex workers safe, they would be pushing to make their activities legal.

With notes from Adam Kovac