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Police, agencies raise awareness around human trafficking in York Region


Police and community agencies in York Region are raising awareness about the dangers of human trafficking.

A human trafficking awareness event was set up at the Central York Fire Services station in Aurora Saturday as the number of cases continues to rise throughout the province and region.

"The reality is it does impact everyone, and anyone can be impacted," said Jeremy Inglis, Deputy Fire Chief with the Central York Fire Service. "The education and awareness is definitely a key component to it. We're starting to move into that stage where we need to really focus on what resources are available to the victims and survivors once we get them away from the traffickers."

Stephanie Bellows is an intelligence analyst with the province. She said the issues of human trafficking have exploded in recent years locally. The victims are both male and female and can be any age.

"They promise them jobs as bottle girls and models, and they buy hotel rooms and use fear to keep them as their prisoners," Bellows told CTV News. "Basically, they recruit these girls through social media through relationships and jobs, and then what they do is they put fear into them by threatening to kill their families, and then they force them to perform sexual acts."

Sixty-seven percent of the human trafficking cases in the country take place in Ontario. Most of those cases happen in Toronto and York Region, but smaller communities like Barrie are not immune to the terror.

There have been cases of trafficking in Barrie, especially in the hotels in Barrie. It is not an isolated issue. Barrie is quickly becoming a hot spot as well," Bellows added.

All the agencies involved in Saturday's education program said they are here to help and are just a phone call away. Parents are encouraged to watch their kids' social media accounts closely and know who they are hanging out with. Top Stories

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