7 charged, vehicles seized in human trafficking probe in Winnipeg

A human trafficking project involving police agencies across Canada led officers to 36 potential victims in Winnipeg and the arrests of seven people.

Investigation part of joint national project called Operation Northern Spotlight

Winnipeg police identified 36 people between the ages of 18-48, who they say are possible victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

A human trafficking project involving police agencies across Canada led officers to 36 potential victims in Winnipeg and the arrests of seven people.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Northern Spotlight, took place from Oct. 15-21 and involved members of the Winnipeg Police Service's Counter Exploitation Unit.

Officers made contact with 36 individuals they identified as possible victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, offering assistance. Those identified ranged in ages from 18 to 48.

At the same time, police targeted those allegedly responsible for the crimes, arresting seven people aged 19-56. Seven vehicles were also seized under the Highway Traffic Act for prostitution offences.

"The Winnipeg Police Service takes the safety and security of all women seriously. Police will continue to investigate and hold those responsible for these crimes accountable," states a news release from police.

"This important initiative is a cooperative effort that brings police services together and sends a strong message to the offenders involved in organized efforts to exploit vulnerable people across geographic boundaries."

Anyone with information that could aid investigators is asked to contact the Counter Exploitation Unit at 1-204-986-3464 or via email at WPS-CEU@winnipeg.ca.