Victoria, BC – Detectives with VicPD’s Special Victims Unit are releasing further information about “Project No More”, a project aimed at combating human trafficking which took place over two days in mid-June.
The goal of “Project No More” was to combat human trafficking by connecting with victims and potential victims of human trafficking to offer safety, resources and assistance. The project also focused on gathering information related to human trafficking in Victoria. As the project was a covert operation, officers did not disclose this project to outside support agencies prior to the investigation.
The officers, working alongside a social worker, wore plainclothes and met with sex-trade workers at a local hotel. The officers contacted sex-trade workers through a website advertising escort services, while posing as a “John”. The officers, who are trained in human trafficking investigations, focused on victims and potential victims of human trafficking, based on their knowledge and experience. Over one hundred advertisements were reviewed and the officers did not attempt to contact sex-trade workers who were not believed to be involved in human trafficking. In total, the officers met with eight women.
On the first day of the project, the officers confirmed that one of the women they met with was brought to the hotel by a known human trafficker with previous convictions for criminal offences related to human trafficking. Based on their interactions with the women they spoke with, officers believe that more than one of the women they met with was a victim of human trafficking. The majority of the women remained in the hotel to speak with police, although they were under no obligation to do so. Many of the women thanked the officers for their concern for their safety, and for explaining available resources.
Some of the women were visiting Victoria from outside of British Columbia. Many sex-trade workers travel along circuits and work in major cities across Canada. However, through criminal investigations, officers have learned that human traffickers also utilize this tactic to make their presence more difficult to detect.
The officers were also focused on combating the sexual exploitation of minors. Officers have learned that women sometimes as young as twelve years old are recruited and groomed by traffickers. In this project, the youngest woman the officers spoke with was eighteen years old. The average age of the women was twenty-five years old.
Detectives with VicPD’s Special Victim Unit are focused on raising awareness about human trafficking which is happening in our community. One of the challenges with human trafficking is that it is under reported and often unknown. Victims are under the control of the trafficker. They are subject to physical and psychological constraints which often prevents them from accessing outreach organizations. As a result, despite strong relationships with outreach organizations who support those who do sex work, VicPD investigators often learn about human trafficking through related investigations into fraud or drug trafficking. Officers have confirmed numerous instances where known human traffickers have operated in Victoria, and officers have spoken with numerous victims. They have learned of the immense physical and psychological abuse these women have endured. Detectives with VicPD’s Special Victims Unit will continue to target human trafficking in Victoria.
If you suspect that someone is the victim of human trafficking, or have information about an incident, please call VicPD’s non-emergency line at (250) 995-7654, extension 1. To report what you know anonymously, please call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.