Durham Police arrest four in “Project Firebird” undercover human trafficking investigation

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Published December 10, 2021 at 2:01 pm

DRPS Human Trafficking Cruiser

Four men who Durham Police believe were “looking for sexual services from 15-year-old females” have been arrested during a four-day ‘John Sweep’ investigation.

The investigation, dubbed Project Firebird by Durham Region Police’s Human Trafficking Unit (HTU), was an undercover operation into human trafficking that targeted men looking to solicit sex workers.

Police did not disclose the men’s identities, when they were arrested or where they were arrested. Nor did police indicate what evidence they collected to lead to the arrests.

The four men were charged with obtaining sexual services for consideration, luring a person under 18 years of age by means of telecommunication, and invitation to sexual touching under 16 years of age.

Police said the Human Trafficking Unit is “committed to investigating incidents of exploitative and/or forced sex-trade work and is committed to helping all victims and connecting them with community resources to support them.”

“The DRPS would like to appeal to any person who may be involved in a similar situation or may know someone involved to come forward,” the statement read. “DRPS takes these cases seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation, as well as protect the victims of this crime.”

Police directed residents to StopHT to either report or learn about Human Trafficking and find resources to help survivors.

Human Trafficking cases are on the rise across Durham Region. In the latest Police Board meeting Durham Police reported a steep increase in cases in the three years since the unit was founded, growing by more than 100 per cent since 2018.

Deputy Chief Dean Bertrim called this trend “alarming,” noting that Durham is a “very attractive environment” for traffickers due to its access to major highways and proximity to Toronto.

The Unit has seen substantial success in addressing these crimes, levelling hundreds of charges a year and providing unique supports through victim’s services.

Anyone with information about these cases or who wishes to report new ones can call the HTU at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5600.

 

 

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