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'Could be anybody that you know': OPP warns about human trafficking in Ontario


Ontario Provincial Police released a public service announcement (PSA) Wednesday as it fights with 20 other police services across the province to end human trafficking.

"At the centre of human trafficking investigations are the people who are being exploited, the victims. It is estimated that approximately 50 per cent of the trafficked women and girls in Canada are indigenous," said Insp. Tricia Rupert, Treaty Three Police in the OPP Human Trafficking PSA.

Wednesday marks Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

The OPP is part of the Provincial Human Trafficking intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy, which has charged 28 people and helped 61 victims in 65 investigations over the past 14 months.

"There is definitely a link with organized crime and drugs," said OPP Det. Insp. Jordan Whitesell.

Police say traffickers target women and girls as young as 12, particularly those battling homelessness, food insecurity, and mental health issues.

"Could be anybody that you know that has got a vulnerability that you may not be aware of. The trafficker exploits and then puts them into absolutely horrendous conditions," Whitesell added.

Provincial police in Collingwood arrested a 64-year-old man from Welland last summer and charged him with several sex-related crimes, including sexual interference, child luring, sexual assault and obtaining sexual services for consideration from a person under 18.

Police encourage anyone who has been victimized to come forward, adding that doing so could help countless others being trafficked across the province.

"We see that often that the courage of one victim can have a major impact on other victims within the human trafficking sphere," Whitesell said.

Provincial investigators say Highway 400 remains a significant transit route for human traffickers and reminds the public to call the police about anything suspicious. Top Stories

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