Winnipeg police aid in national human trafficking investigation
Published Tuesday, October 18, 2016 11:02AM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, October 18, 2016 7:36PM CST
A coordinated, national investigation into human trafficking has resulted in charges laid against 32 individuals with 78 offences.
The Winnipeg Police Service along with 53 other police services in Canada and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States participated in this phase of ‘Operation Northern Spotlight.’
“Operation Northern Spotlight is an ongoing investigation into human trafficking – involving mainly young women – who are participating in the sex trade against their will,” WPS said in a release Tuesday morning. “This phase was conducted over a six-day period in October 2016 in various municipalities and jurisdictions across the country.”
Winnipeg’s team included investigators with the Counter Exploitation Unit, the Counter Exploitation Team and the Missing Persons Unit.
Police said a total of 22 women, between the ages of 19 and 44, were interviewed in areas around the city known to be frequented by sex trade workers including massage parlours and hotels.
Police said they believed some of the women were under some level of control and were offered community-based resources for assistance.
Police charged five people for obtaining sexual services for consideration.
Together, 36 police agencies from Ontario and 18 from outside Ontario, including the RCMP, were able to ensure the safety of 16 individuals who had been working in the sex trade as a minor or against their will. Police said this number included persons 16 years and under.
It took 391 officers and support staff combined to interview 379 people.
“The Winnipeg Police Service takes the safety and security of all women seriously. Police will continue to investigate and hold those responsible for these crimes accountable,” the release said. “This important initiative is a cooperative effort that brings police services together and sends a strong message to the offenders involved in organized efforts to exploit vulnerable people across geographic boundaries.”