More than 30 Windsor Police officers on Wednesday will receive special training in how to spot the signs of enslavement and human trafficking.
Officers will hear from Timea Nagy, a victim of human trafficking.
'The scope is bigger than we initially recognized.' — John St. Louis, Windsor Police
Nagy said she was lured to Canada with the promise of a job but not long after arriving was forced into the sex trade.
Shelly Gilbert of the Anti-Human Trafficking Action Group of Windsor knows of approximately 40 survivors - men and women - of human traffickers with ties to or residents of Windsor.
Windsor Police staff Sgt. John St. Louis spearheads the police anti-trafficking effort. He said officers and members of the general public should look for signs of human trafficking.
Signs include whether the victim is in control of their own identification and documents or money during hotel check-ins or purchases; and whether they are in control of items like cellphones — or does someone place the call for them?
"One of the skills the traffickers seem to have is the ability to force people into ... incredible secrecy," Shelly Gilbert said.
Victims vary in sex and age
Gilbert said victims are both male and female. Men are often enslaved in the construction field. Women work mainly in the sex trade.
"As there is more of a call for cheap labour, it allows recruiters to lure people ... to Canada," Gilbert said.
"The scope is a lot bigger than we initially recognized," St. Louis said.
He is aware of one Windsor woman who was exploited. So it's not just a crime that involves immigrants.
St. Louis said Windsor Police leaned on officers from Toronto for advice when developing the training initiative.
More resources needed
St. Louis and said previous awareness training has already paid dividends.
"One officer was able to come forward just as a result of going to a call. [Using] the awareness training that he received, he basically saw signs of a person being a victim of human trafficking and he was able to call our office. We were able to come in and follow this up," he said.
St. Louis said the police will expand their anti-human trafficking initiative so the public is better informed.
"Officers sort of have to be aware of the various places that they may interact with potential survivors. I think it's really important that we're aware of what is happening in our communities and who these individuals are that are looking for help," Gilbert said. "Certainly the officers on the street will be able to take these offenders off the street."
Gilbert said there needs to be more resources dedicated to stop human trafficking.
"We have a group of really dedicated and passionate volunteers. But there are very little supports for this," she said.
Gilbert praised the Criminal Code and its penalties for those found guilty of the crime.
"But we are not yet seeing anything being provided for the ongoing support and representation to survivors of human trafficking," she said.