WELLINGTON COUNTY – Stop the Crime of Human Trafficking is the national theme for Crime Stoppers Month 2022, and Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington (CSGW) is bringing the message home with an online presentation on protecting children.
The Talk: Understanding Human Trafficking and How to Protect Your Children is a free online session that will inform parents, guardians, family, teachers and mentors of children on how to keep youth safe from predators, states a news release from CSGW.
“It really is a call to action,” said CSGW program coordinator Sarah Bowers-Peter.
“People need to talk about the various forms of human trafficking so they can take preventative measures, as well as take action.”
Bowers-Peter said CSGW is hoping that action results in anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers that will stop the suffering of victims.
The Talk is a one-night-only event on Jan. 26, starting at 6:30pm.
Registration for the session, featuring Wellington County OPP’s PC Beth Hickey, Guelph Police Service’s Hugh Currie and Bowers-Peters through Eventbrite. A link can be found at crimestoppersguelphwellington.com.
Human trafficking consists of several subcategories: sex trafficking, labour trafficking and organ trafficking, CSGW officials explain.
Sex and labour trafficking are the predominant crimes in Canada, and Ontario.
CSGW says the province is known as a hub for traffickers looking to move their victims from east and west coast operations to the U.S. It’s a profitable crime, with perpetrators earning between $200,000 and $250,000 per victim per year, officials say, adding it is a $150-billion industry across the globe.
“The cost to victims, however, is much higher. With most individuals not realizing they are being groomed or believing they are working towards a financial goal, they don’t know, until it’s too late, that they are in a cycle of abuse where the opportunities to escape are few and far between,” the release states.
“In the case of labour trafficking, victims believe they are indebted to their traffickers and must work to eliminate that debt. Many of these victims are malnourished, physically abused and unable to seek help due to language or distance barriers.
Victims of sex trafficking are similarly trapped. While each scenario is different, it ends the same; a young person is exploited and is coerced, sometimes with the assistance of drugs or alcohol, to engage with dozens of customers in a day.
Traffickers often have a sideline of sex trafficking along with drug or gun running, officials say. However, it is much easier to transport a youth in a car than several kilos of drugs.
“There is also a never-ending supply of young people, and thanks to the internet, specifically social media, it’s easier than ever to find someone who is unsuspecting and looking for someone to connect with,” the release states.
While the crime may be gaining more awareness, what is needed now is education and the understanding the public can do something about it.
As part of its efforts to combat human trafficking, CSGW has also partnered with Wellington County OPP and Victim Services Wellington for the past year to increase awareness under the #HTinWC #HumanTraffickingInWellingtonCounty banner.
“The momentum we are experiencing from #HTinWC is incredible,” said Bowers-Peter.
“It proves our point that people need to know about this crime and that awareness will mean prevention.”
While the topic of human trafficking may not be one that most parents would want to discuss with their children, Bowers-Peter said now is the best time to do so.
“If you think it’s difficult to talk about now, wait until your child, or a police officer comes to you and tells you what’s happening to them,” said Bowers-Peter.
“We have to find a way to have this conversation with our kids; it’s part of parenting today. We need to know who they are talking to online.”
CSGW board chair Deryck West said those who think human trafficking is “a big city issue” are incorrect.
“It is happening everywhere, not just in cities like Guelph, but also in communities throughout Wellington County,” said West.
“It is of utmost importance that all of us as members of our communities educate ourselves about human trafficking, so that we can recognize it and provide information to eradicate the heinous crime.”