Police services in Guelph and Waterloo Region are teaming up to form a joint human trafficking unit with the help of a grant from the province.
The Ontario government announced Thursday that $537,460 will be provided over three years to help the new unit tackle human trafficking throughout Waterloo Region and Guelph.
“This investment will ensure our service is able to work in partnership to detect, investigate and prevent human trafficking throughout Waterloo Region and the City of Guelph,” Waterloo chief Bryan Larkin said.
The unit will consist of a crisis intervention counsellor and three dedicated full-time investigators — two from Waterloo and one from Guelph. It will also work with local victim services organizations to tackle human trafficking.
It’s expected to respond to human trafficking incidents, provide wraparound victim support, and conduct investigations. The funding will also help purchase equipment and training unit members.
“We are committed to working collaboratively with our law enforcement and community partners to protect our communities from those who seek to profit from these terrible crimes involving human trafficking and sexual violence,” Guelph chief Gord Cobey said.
It was one of many programs announced by the province for a total of $6 million for police services in Ontario through funds forfeited to the province during criminal prosecutions.
“Any time we have the opportunity to take away resources from criminals and redirect them to victims, it should be seized,” Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris said.
Waterloo Regional Police also received $299,067 to train officers who interview victims of sexual violence. The funding will also be used to create a three-year educational awareness campaign about sexual violence and harassment.
The Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre said it welcomes the investments.
“Compassionate support for victims, coupled with education and prevention for communities, are key to effectively tackling these complex issues and improving public safety,” director Julia Manuel said.
Thursday’s announcement follows another funding announcement from late last year when Waterloo police received over $7.4 million to expand their CORE teams.
More money from the province was also allocated for a new team under the police service’s gang intelligence and enforcement initiative.