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DRPS tackling Human trafficking in North Durham

COURTNEY McCLURE,

The Standard

NORTH DURHAM: The government of Ontario is investing about $5.9 million dollars over a two year period. This money will be invested through the Victim Support Grant program. It will enhance the capacity to support survivors of intimate partner violence and human trafficking.

Along with support from the federal government, the funding will be given to 37 police services. These police services collaborate with local organizations and community partners across Ontario.

17 out of 37 of these services will focus on the needs of Indigenous survivors, working to strengthen the relationships with Indigenous communities and organizations.

“With this new investment, police services and community partners across the province will work together to help more survivors and at-risk individuals get the supports they need, where and when they need them most,” said Sylvia Jones, the Solicitor General of Ontario.

The funding from the Victim Support Grant program will go to many programs. Some of these programs include supporting; specialized intervention programs, specialized training to law enforcement, and creating culturally safe and respectful environments.

The Durham Regional Police (DRPS) is one of the 37 policing organizations receiving grant funding. According to the DRPS, in 2018, they made significant contribution “to the fight against human trafficking.”

The DRPS did this by including a full-time Human Trafficking Unit among their other police services. They said the DRPS Human Trafficking Unit services are situated with their investigative services.

“Despite social distancing becoming a mandatory requirement, during 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many businesses to close, human trafficking continued,” said Detctive Dave Davies.

Throughout 2020, the DRPS noticed an increase of human trafficking by about 14 per cent. There were about 137 human trafficking investigations conducted by the DRPS that year, 41 per cent of them involved victims who were under the age of 18.

“These incidents only account for investigations [which] came to our attention, and investigators believe there are many more victims who, for a variety of reasons, have not come forward,” explained Detective Davies.

Last year, investigators laid approximately 215 criminal charges against 37 accused persons. Investigators were also involved in 337 new investigations.

According to the DRPS, most people who are trafficked for sex include women and girls, but many boys, men and people from other communities are targeted as well.

“The age of recruitment is as low as 12 or 13,” said Detective Davies.

Young people who struggle with low-self esteem, bullying and poverty are some of the most common victims of human trafficking. Other risk factors include marginalized and homeless youth. Indigenous women and girls are at a high-risk for becoming human trafficking victims, as well as those from alternate lifestyles. People with developmental disabilities, addiction and mental health issues are also at risk.

According to the DRPS, the Human Trafficking Unit is a “proud member” of the Durham Region Human Trafficking Coalition. This organization is compromised of 25 local, community groups including the Rape Crisis Centre and Victim Services.

Last year, the Human Trafficking Unit unveiled a “newly wrapped” police cruiser, designed to raise awareness and combat human trafficking. The cruiser will be on patrol throughout Durham Region, to raise awareness and promote the Human Trafficking Coalition website, www.StopHT.com.

To find out how you can help, visit the StopHT website.

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