Human trafficking has been identified as an Issue in Chatham-Kent, and Police Chief Gary Conn updated his board on what they intend to do about it.
In the Chatham-Kent Police Services Board meeting recently, Conn tabled his report, explaining the scope of the problem and a plan to make people in the hotel/motel industry more aware of the warning signs of trafficking.
“The increase of available escort websites and the Internet brings more escorts and customers to the Chatham-Kent area,” Conn said in his report. “Chatham-Kent is an up and coming hot spot for pimps and escorts, due to its geographical location (401 access, near an international border, between two large cities).”
He noted the websites, such as Backpage.com, provide cheap advertising and marketing for traffickers, and that pimps use it to arrange “dates.”
“Many of these females are moved throughout the province, against their will, in order to be exploited at the direction of and for the financial gain of another individual,” the report stated.
With minors often being targeted by traffickers because they are susceptible to sexual exploitation, pimps use the websites to let potential customers know the girl or boy is underage using certain “nuances” or language. The chief said this is how they get around the laws governing such websites.
“There have been occurrences in the Chatham-Kent area which support the belief that human trafficking is and has been prevalent in our municipality. These occurrences have primarily involved people who are transient and don’t reside in Chatham-Kent,” the report said. “These people are linked to not only human trafficking offences, but other related offences (drugs, violence, etc.)”
While no charges have been laid in Chatham-Kent in relation to human trafficking, Conn told the board they will be pro-active by monitoring websites that advertise escorts to identify potential victims, educating the community on recognizing potential victims, police training, working with support agencies such as Victim’s Services to provide help, and actively participating in the OPP Anti-Human Trafficking Investigation provincial strategy.
Hotels/motels along the 401 corridor are often used for “dates,” and the CKPS are being pro-active in educating the staff of what to look out for within their establishments, such as a one person booking a room that has several people in it, and increased foot traffic in and out of the room in timed increments.
“A ‘Warning Sign’ checklist has been created by the CKPS to be distributed to area hotel/motels for front desk staff to have tips on how to identify potential victims of human trafficking,” he said.
Spanky’s, the only adult entertainment club in Chatham-Kent, has also been provided with tips on what to look for, and the chief said the owner has been very co-operative.