DRPS to receive $200,000 victim support grant to fight human trafficking per Pickering announcement

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Published April 6, 2022 at 10:59 am

DRPS Human Trafficking Cruiser

Durham Regional Police Service is set to receive a $200,000 provincial Victims Support Grants (VSG) to fight intimate partner violence and human trafficking in local Indigenous communities.

The VSG will be used to shore up funding for the DRPS Support and Outreach Services (SOS), a project dedicated to connecting victims of such crimes to support services.

The funds, which come in part from the Federal Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence, will be used to hire a new crisis intervention counsellor to work with victim services to “provide immediate, on-site intervention services to connect victims to a wide range of community services.”

Another portion of the funding is earmarked for culturally appropriate human trafficking awareness campaign to combat the crime in Indigenous communities. The project hopes to build a more trusting relationships between DRPS and the Region’s Indigenous people.

The province launched the VSG application process last summer. All municipal, First Nation and Ontario police services were able to apply. Ultimately 37 police services across Ontario will receive a total $5.9 million over the next two years for these projects.

Durham police will receive the maximum $200,000 investment spread out equally over the next two fiscal years.

“Intimate partner violence and human trafficking are heinous crimes that can have devastating impacts. That is why our government is protecting those at risk and supporting survivors,” said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General.

“With this new investment, police services and community partners across the province will work together to help more survivors and at-risk individuals get the supports they need where and when they need them most,” Jones continued.

Human trafficking cases have been on the rise in Durham Region for the last few years. According to a DRPS report last November, 251 cases were under investigation by September 2021 alone, a 161 per cent increase over 2020.

These investigations resulted in 143 charges against 149 suspects and identified 226 victims. More than a third of the victims were minors.

This rise, which stretches back years and was described as “alarming” by Deputy Chief Dave Bertrim, is why DRPS founded their Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) in the first place.

“Durham Region is particularly attractive to human traffickers as part of the GTA, close to Toronto, all the 400 series highways,” Bertrim said in the update.

In addition to investigating human trafficking cases, the HTU provides victim support through crisis counselor Karly Church, a survivor herself and a renowned speaker on the issue. The unit also run numerous awareness and education programs, speaking to high schoolers and wrapped patrol car.

These efforts and others try to encourage victims to come forward as “human trafficking thrives on the anonymity,” according to Bertrim.

“With this grant, we can enhance a human trafficking resource hub for Durham Region. It will allow Victim Services Durham Region to work hand-in-hand with the Domestic Violence Unit at the Durham Regional Police Service to provide seamless, trauma-informed support to survivors,” said Carly Kalish, Executive Director of Victim Services Durham Region.

“It will allow us to expand our knowledge as a community about how sex trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence disproportionately impact Indigenous women and girls,” she concluded.

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