In its latest effort to crack down on human trafficking in the region, London police have announced that whenever possible, the names of people charged with purchasing sex will be made public.
“We’ve made a decision to commence a practice on a go-forward basis that where we’re legally able to do so, we will be releasing the names of those individuals that are charged with purchasing sex,” said Chief John Pare.
“This is not a choice that you should be doing in purchasing sex and putting these victims at the risk they are facing. We’re trying to use all the tools available to us to combat human trafficking and this is just another step in that direction.”
The move was announced at Thursday’s meeting of the London Police Services Board, following a presentation on human trafficking from Det. David Ellyatt, head of the police’s Human Trafficking Unit.
“We have to be mindful that people have a right to choose, but in my experience, the vast majority of women and girls that I’ve dealt with, if you get down to their actual story, have not chosen,” he said, adding that 93 per cent of victims are Canadians.
“Statistically, 50 per cent of the victims are Indigenous — that’s not necessarily true of our city but it’s true of the coast-to-coast picture for Canada. A startling statistic of 75 per cent of those in prostitution were forced into it as children and that reflects some of the things that we see in our city.”
London is considered a hub for human trafficking, with Ellyat saying that’s in part due to the fact that the city is an “island between major centres” like Detroit and Toronto, that Highway 401 serves as a major route for traffickers to move around women and girls, and that there is a large number of hotels near the highway and on the east side of the city.
Ellyat also mentioned an earlier project in pointing out the issue of demand.
“We ran a proactive project where we ran a fake ad to conduct a john sting operation. That ad was only placed on an online site but it had over 9,000 views within a week,” he said.
Chief Pare stressed that the move to release names is aimed at impacting that demand.
“You heard 9,000 views in one week on one particular ad,” he said.
“This is our way to affect the demand and enhance public safety for these victims of human trafficking.”