WATCH ABOVE: RCMP and Halifax Regional Police have launched an awareness campaign for the hospitality and transportation industry. They’re asking frontline employees at hotels, taxi or bus companies and the airport to keep an eye out for signs of human trafficking. Rebecca Lau has more.
Say something if you see something: that’s the message police have for those working in the hospitality and transportation industries.
Halifax Regional Police and RCMP have partnered to launch an awareness campaign geared towards frontline staff who work for hotels or taxi and bus companies, asking employees to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking and forced sex work.
“We know that human trafficking does occur in several hotels, whether it’s a budget motel or it’s a luxury high-end hotel or resort,” said Const. Tammy Lobb of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division’s Vice Unit.
“And we know that ground and air transportation is commonly used to transport victims.”
Stakeholders in the project include the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Maritime Bus Company, HRM taxi services and The Hotel Association of Nova Scotia. Police also partnered with community groups including Stepping Stone, the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre and the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre.
Pamphlets and posters will be distributed to local hotels, taxi services, bus companies and the airport.
In the example of a hotel or motel, check-in staff may notice some suspicious behaviour.
“Are people local from the community renting rooms? Are they hesitant to perhaps leave credit card information or provide identification? Do they tend to pay in cash for a series of days? Are they renting more than one room at a time?” Lobb said.
Guests may also request a secluded room or one that is near an exit.
Lobb said the victims may give signals, which include being very timid, not speaking, or having limited luggage.
“By educating all these frontline employees who we believe are coming in contact likely with victims and traffickers on a regular basis but they might just not realize it, it’s allowing us to educate them so that we can in turn receive calls at the police department,” she said.
David Clark, the president of the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia, said their members are looking forward to the seminars from police to learn how to better detect the signs of human trafficking.
“Certainly we don’t want to stereotype anybody and obviously we want to protect our guests,” Clark said.
“So we want to make sure that if they’re seeing something that they’re not jumping to conclusions and they’re telling the right people — the managers — and then we take it from there.”
Clark said it was important for the association to take part in the campaign because of the seriousness of the crimes.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of young people involved and certainly underaged people and we should vigilant, certainly as a society we should be,” he said.
For those who work with victims, the problem of forced sex work is real.
Denise One Breath Mitchell is a victim support navigator with the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, and partnered with police to create the awareness campaign.
“There was a risk of a few girls who I was working with being at risk of being trafficked,” Mitchell said. “Some of the information that come to my attention is very scary.”
Mitchell said she is hopeful the campaign will make a difference and encourages people to speak up.
“These women are forced. A lot of these women are taken away from their families and they have no control over their life,” she said.
“They live in fear and they need someone to step up and if somebody sees something happening, make that call because it could change that person’s life.”
For more information. visit the Say Something if you See Something website.
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