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Ontario Police Units Rescue More Than 60 Victims in Crackdown on Human Trafficking

Almost sixty victims of human trafficking have been rescued as a direct result of a coordinated effort made by numerous police units located around the province of Ontario during the past fourteen months.

In December 2021, the government of Ontario initiated the Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS), which is comprised of the Ontario Provincial Police as well as 20 regional, municipal, and Indigenous police agencies. This initiative's overarching goal is to combat instances of human and labor trafficking that take place across different jurisdictions.

On the occasion of Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the province, the organization presented figures to the public, which revealed that 65 joint investigations had been conducted, and 239 charges had been brought against 28 persons, including 72 accusations of human trafficking.

The ages of the victims, who were almost exclusively young girls, varied from 12 to 47. In Ontario, the typical age at which a person is recruited into a sex trafficking ring is 13, and more than 70 percent of the province's victims are under the age of 25.

To address the rising problem of child sexual exploitation in the province of Ontario, the government of Ontario unveiled a proposal in 2020 to invest a total of $307 million over the course of 5 years in a strategy to combat human trafficking. According to the administration of the province, trafficking in Ontario is higher than in the rest of Canada. In fact, the province is responsible for about 2/3s of the incidents of human trafficking that are reported to police across the country.

According to the IJFS, this gap might be attributable to the huge number of urban districts and improved access to key transportation and transit hubs for movement within the province. These are also factors that contribute to urbanization.

The Toronto Police Service has laid charges against a woman in her 40s in connection with an investigation into human trafficking.

According to Jordan Whitesell, who is in charge of the Integrated Joint Forensic Services and is also a detective inspector with the Ontario Provincial Police, the relationship has made it easier to exchange information and monitor individuals across many jurisdictions. According to Det. Insp. Whitesell, it is often difficult to investigate cases like this due to the fact that traffickers regularly relocate their victims to new areas in order to disguise their operations. It takes twice as long to investigate these kinds of instances as it does other types of violent crimes.

Det. Insp. Whitesell continued by saying that the new method provided the ability for investigators to recognize repeat offenders. For instance, in a case that occurred a year ago, the IJFS was able to discover more victims after one survivor came forward to the police. As a result, multiple charges of human trafficking and assault were brought against those responsible.

In an interview, he explained that in the past, "we had the capacity to detect traffickers who would try to exploit our jurisdictional limits to their advantage." "We still feel that human trafficking is an under-reported crime and that we're just scratching the surface with our investigation into the matter."

In addition, the IJFS is collaborating with an Indigenous researcher in the northern part of the province to develop anti-trafficking initiatives in that particular part of the province. It is claimed that fifty percent of the women and girls that are trafficked in Canada are from indigenous communities.

The executive director of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, Julia Drydyk, stated in a statement that this new partnership enables law enforcement to combine resources and be more proactive. However, she also stated that additional investment in social services, such as crisis intervention and support for safe housing, is also required.

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