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

Hays Creek in Prince Rupert requires more than $1.5 million to repair the creek and walls built in the 1950s and 1960s, Prince Rupert City Council heard on Jan. 25. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert City Council briefs:

More than $1.5 million needed to restore Hays Creek in Prince Rupert

Staff at Acropolis Manor, a Prince Rupert long-term health care facility in April 2020 where no cases of COVID-19 were reported until an outbreak on Jan. 19, 2021. As of Jan. 25th, 32 people associated with the residence have tested positive for the virus. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Staff at Acropolis Manor a Prince Rupert long term health care facility, take pride in their work place that no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the facility during the pandemic.This photo taken, April 20, from outside, looking through a window shows staff adhering to strict protocols and best practices to keep residents happy and healthy. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 numbers increase at Acropolis Manor – 32 infected

Prince Rupert man concerned about temp. staff from out of region working at long-term care facility

Ken Veldman vice president, public affairs and sustainability, at Prince Port Port Authority on Jan. 21 addressed local employers in an online presentation about a new community recruitment program to attract employees to Prince Rupert. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
New recruitment campaign to be launched in Prince Rupert

Web platform will use community collaboration to attract new employees to Prince Rupert

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in waters south of Vancouver Island

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms 1st death amid growing COVID-19 outbreak

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

(Pixabay)
B.C. teacher gets 1 day suspension after ‘aggressively’ throwing dumbbell at student

Documents show the weight would have hit the student if they didn’t catch it

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
B.C. ramping up screening for faster-spreading COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’

B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February

Most Read