Last week, police services across Canada participated in a two-day blitz focusing on the growing concern that women are being forced to participate in the sex trade.
Operation Northern Spotlight II involved 26 police services on October 1 and 2, 2014 and was centered around hotels and motels on major thoroughfares in 28 cities and towns across the country. A total of 167 police officers and support staff took part and 257 people were interviewed including a 12-year-old girl in Winnipeg.
Police found some were being forced to perform sexual acts, multiple times a day, for paying male customers. Nine people were arrested across Canada and face charges including: Exercise Control, Make Child Pornography, Distribute Child Pornography, Forcible Confinement, Trafficking in Persons, Material Benefit, Withhold or Destroy Documents, Living off the Avails of Prostitution, Assault, Procuring, Utter Threats, Obstruct Police and Breach of Recognizance and Probation.
In Durham Region, officers interviewed 31 sex trade workers, with an average age of 26, and investigators believe nine were under some level of control. These 31 people represent the highest total for any police service during Operation Northern Spotlight II.
Although the Criminal Code section refers to this activity as Human Trafficking, the public may better understand this issue as sex slavery. Although many of the women appear to be making their own decisions to participate for financial gain, investigators found several teenagers and young women were being forced to perform through threats of violence, physical intimidation, drug dependency and other forms of coercion. Part or all of the proceeds from the sexual encounters were kept by their adult male controller or pimp.
Police Services will continue to monitor any incidents of forced participation in hopes of assisting any woman involved in the sex trade business against her will.
The following police services participated in this phase of Operation Northern Spotlight:
Barrie Police Service; Brantford Police Service; Durham Regional Police; Halton Regional Police; Hamilton Police Service; Kingston Police Service; RCMP Kitchener; London Police Service; Peel Regional Police Service; Peterborough-Lakefield Community Police Service; Port Hope Police Service; Toronto Police Service; Waterloo Regional Police Service; Windsor Police Service; OPP; Calgary Police Service; Edmonton Police Service; Lethbridge Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team [ALERT]; Regina Police Service; Saskatoon Police Service; Winnipeg Police Service; RCMP Exploited Persons Pro-active Strategy (EPPS); Gatineau Police; Ville de Quebec Police; Halifax Regional Police and RCMP Halifax.
If you have information about any person being coerced into the sex trade, please contact your local police service.
In Durham Region, members of Human Trafficking Unit, assisted by Target team members from other DRPS Divisions and members of the Port Hope Police Service and the Peterborough Police Service, took part in Operation Northern Spotlight II. A total of 19 officers participated in Durham Region.
From October 1 to October 2, 2014, 107 advertisements were identified in Durham and from those ads, 68 people were contacted. Officers interviewed 31 sex trade workers, with an average age of 26, and investigators believe nine females were under some level of control. They were offered support services, including health care and mental/emotional supports, in hopes they can consider other options.
DRPS led this national initiative in 2013 in which 330 women were interviewed across Canada. Last year in Durham Region, a total of 38 young women, many aged 16 to 22, were interviewed and 12 were believed to be under some level of control.
Clients are made aware of the girls through various websites and often call or text a cell phone number to arrange the liaisons at local hotels and motels.
The DRPS remains committed to helping all victims and connecting them with community resources to support them.
Durham Regional Police would like to appeal to any person who may be involved in a similar situation or may know someone involved to come forward to police. DRPS takes these cases seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation, as well as protect the victims of this crime.
In Durham Region, DRPS has set up a Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 4888. Police encourage the public to call this line with any information related to human trafficking.
Anyone with new information that might assist investigators is asked to contact Sgt. Ron Kapuscinski of the Human Trafficking Unit at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 3260.
Human Trafficking and Victim Resources in Durham Region
Durham Regional Police Service
In an emergency situation: Dial 911
Victim Services of Durham Region
Phone: 1-888-579-1520 ext. 1846
24-Hour Crisis Numbers
Durham Distress Centre
Durham Rape Crisis Centre
Phone : 1-905-668-9200
Kids Help Line
Assaulted Womens Help Line
Bethesda House (24 hours)
Denise House (24 hours)
YWCA Ys WISH Shelter (24 hours)
Stop Human Trafficking (JPG file, 176.9K bytes)