Six people linked to the sex trade, including two under the age of 16, are now safe thanks to officers from across Ontario – including Halton, Peel, and Hamilton police – and a dozen people are facing charges in connection with Operation Northern Spotlight.
“Human trafficking is a deplorable crime that threatens the safety, livelihood and dignity of those who are being exploited and abused,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum.
“This is a complex issue that affects some of the most vulnerable people in our society and does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries. It is our duty to act decisively and effectively to recognize and protect these people from exploitation and it is imperative that we have a concentrated effort amongst all our partners to be effective.”
Over a seven-day period, 46 police services across Ontario were involved, and 12 people were charged with 21 offences, including: advertise another person’s sexual services; possession of property obtained by crime; receive material benefit from sexual services; keeping a common bawdy house; procuring material benefit; trafficking in persons; prohibited weapon; procuring a person under 18 years of age; and receive a material benefit under 18 years of age.
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The annual initiative is a coordinated, national effort to end human trafficking.
During Operation Northern Spotlight, police meet with individuals suspected of being in exploitive situations.
They’re provided contacts and information for community-based support agencies and are offered both immediate and future police assistance to leave the exploitation.
The program isn’t intended to engage those who aren’t being exploited.
A total of 331 police officers, support staff and victim services engaged 198 people, as part of a joint effort coordinated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
It was part of an international operation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), RCMP and involved police services from Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and the United Kingdom.
The following Ontario police services participated in this year’s Operation Northern Spotlight: Amherstburg Police Service, Barrie Police Service, Belleville Police Service, Brantford Police Service, Brockville Police Service, Chatham-Kent Police Service, CobourgPolice Service, Cornwall Community Police Service, Deep River Police Service, Durham Regional Police Service, Halton Regional Police Service, Hamilton Police Service, City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service, Kingston Police, LaSalle Police Service, London Police Service, Midland Police Service, Niagara Regional Police Service, Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, North Bay Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Orangeville Police Service, Ottawa Police Service, Owen Sound Police Service, Peel Regional Police, Peterborough Police Service, Port Hope Police Service, Rama Police Service, Sarnia Police Service, St. Thomas Police Service, Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, South Simcoe Police Service, Stratford Police Service, Strathroy-Caradoc Police Service, Greater Sudbury Police Service, Thunder Bay Police Service, Toronto Police Service, Treaty Three Police Service, United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising Anishnaabe Police Service, Waterloo Regional Police Service, West Grey Police Service, West Nipissing Police Service, Windsor Police Service, Woodstock Police Service and York Regional Police.
“Operation Northern Spotlight is possible because of the multiple police organizations and victim service agencies working in partnership to stop human trafficking,” said OPP Insp. Tina Chalk from the electronic crime section.
The 2016 campaign saw 16 people brought to safety, with 67 charges laid against 25 people.