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OPP Launch Campaign To Prevent Human Trafficking

Frontline OPP officers from across southwestern Ontario are getting new tools to help combat human trafficking.

A new campaign to prevent the trafficking of people was launched by provincial police on Wednesday, with information packages being distributed to officers from all detachments in the region.

“They are being provided with different tools that they can actually give people in crisis to use that will help the officers become more aware of the human trafficking issue as well. It includes information in terms of what to look for – who makes up a typical victim, and how we can work towards preventing these people from getting into, most often, the sex trade industry,” said OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor.

Those believed to be the most vulnerable targets of human trafficking include migrant workers, new immigrants, aboriginal women and youth, at-risk-youth, and persons with mental health and addiction issues.

“These victims rarely identify themselves to police so it is incumbent upon us to familiarize ourselves with who these people are and what we can do to help them out. That is part of the goal. We want to make sure we are reaching this group,” said Rektor.

It is hoped the campaign will also build knowledge of how police can intervene safely, teach citizens how to identify if someone is being victimized, and how to report it.

Human trafficking is a vastly underreported crime, one Rektor noted people tend to think could never happen in a small town.

“Sadly, a lot of people think it only happens in built up areas, like major cities but nothing could be further from the truth. It happens in rural Ontario just as often as it happens in major cities,” said Rektor. “Human trafficking doesn’t require the crossing of borders. Exploitation is the key element of the offence. They are using these vulnerable people, most often in the sex trade industry.”

Through the newly launched campaign, police also hope to identify criminal organizations who are benefitting from human trafficking.

“The people who are committing these offences are a wide demographic of people. You would think it would be someone seedy who does this but no, some of the people we are arresting are high profile, respected people in the community,” said Rektor. “We all collectively need to work on this issue to protect these victims and bring this issue to the forefront.”

Roughly 65% of all police-reported human trafficking cases in the country are in Ontario.