Operation No More saw members of the Victoria Police Department’s special victims unit meet girls believed to be involved in human trafficking at a local hotel. Officers offered the girls help and other resources. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)

Operation No More saw members of the Victoria Police Department’s special victims unit meet girls believed to be involved in human trafficking at a local hotel. Officers offered the girls help and other resources. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)

Undercover operation exposes prominent human trafficking problem in Greater Victoria

VicPD’s Operation No More took place in mid-June at a local hotel

An undercover operation conducted by members of the Victoria Police Department’s special victims unit has confirmed the Capital Region has a prominent human trafficking problem.

Black Press Media received an inside look at the logistics of Operation No More and heard from one of the officers leading the charge. The officer has asked not to be named in order to protect the cases and victims he works with.

While there is no specific human trafficking unit at VicPD, files alluding to these crimes or a larger problem are brought to the attention of the special victims unit. Working off the side of his desk, on downtime and in between other sexual related crimes, the officer started to piece together other overlapping crimes such as fraud and property offences that were indications of human trafficking. He, and another officer, received specialized training and now plan on doing more projects that target human traffickers in Victoria.

RELATED: Recent arrests skim surface of Victoria’s human trafficking problem

Operation No More started at the beginning of June, with officers monitoring a website called LeoList — which is commonly used to advertise escort or massage services. The officer would look for keywords or phrases that would indicate a girl was working in a circuit as opposed to someone who was advertising their services independently.

A circuit is when human traffickers hit various cities, spending a couple of nights to a week in each place before moving on – which makes investigating human trafficking offences challenging as multiple agencies are usually involved.

Back in February, Black Press Media sat down with the same officer to learn more about how girls are recruited into human trafficking after four Vancouver Island residents were arrested and charged. The officer described two routes that are most commonly seen – the Romeo or the gorilla.

A ‘Romeo’ will make the girl feel special, loved, similar to a girlfriend but will slowly insert fear, threats and debt bondage to make the victim feel helpless to escape. A ‘gorilla’ trafficker will go straight to physical or sexual violence to control her.

On the day of the operation, officers messaged the girls online, posing as a John inquiring about services and asking to meet up either on that day or the next.

READ ALSO: Victoria woman charged with human-trafficking in Saskatchewan, returns home on bail

Officers in plainclothes, accompanied by a social worker, were waiting in a hotel room for the girls with ‘go bags’ ready. Containing toiletries, clothes and gift cards to provide some basic items, the bags were there if any of the girls decided they wanted out in that moment.

Out of the 24 girls who were contacted, eight showed up.

“You’re not in trouble,” said the officer, who immediately identified himself as a cop when a girl would walk into the room. He asked each girl if they were being forced into the work and if they needed or wanted help. Two girls left as quickly as they could, while the other six sat down and talked.

None of the girls took the help, but the officer said this was a good initial step in creating a point of contact. The first girl to enter the hotel room initially opened up but when she was confronted about her situation, the officer said she became emotional, scared and didn’t want to talk any further.

Similar to victims of domestic abuse, victims of human trafficking typically take a few tries before they feel confident in accepting outside help. The officer said he hopes outreach operations can lead the victims “to a place where she feels like she can accept the help.”

And while VicPD didn’t learn a lot during the operation, the officer said it confirmed their suspicions of a prominent problem in Greater Victoria. The girls who came to the hotel ranged in age between their teens to mid-twenties and were on a circuit that included cities such as Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Calgary and Vancouver.

Officers will also be better equipped for future operations with a better understanding of how to approach and talk to these girls. The next step will be to reach out to the eight girls who came to the hotel, see how they’re doing and offer help once again.

The motto of the unit is ‘everybody counts or nobody counts,’ and this officer wants to encourage victims to contact VicPD if they are in need of help, along with asking members of the public to report suspicious behaviour either online or by calling the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Human traffickingVicPD

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Comox Valley Sports Centre re-opened in the summer. Photo supplied
Comox Valley Sports Centre Commission chair commends staff efforts in challenging year

Comox Valley Sports Centre Commission chair Daniel Arbour delivered a year-end report… Continue reading

The Lamplighters wants to end its lease with the village. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Briefs: Cumberland agrees to end hall lease with Lamplighters

Council aims to add more daytime meetings in 2021 for seniors

A rendering of the proposed window covering and sign for the business planned for downtown Cumberland. Image, Village of Cumberland report
Cumberland approves location change for cannabis permit

Site next door to the one planned seen as more financially feasible

The DPAC is holding an online forum on Nov. 30 for candidates for the upcoming school district byelection. Screenshot DPAC poster
Online forum for Comox Valley school board byelection is Nov. 30

Six candidates have filed papers to fill the trustee position in Area C

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Most Read