The Barrie Police Service (BPS) will receive $183,000 from the Ontario government for a new program called “Project: When You’re Ready,” with a focus on human trafficking.
The money is part of $5.9 million over two years announced by the Ministry of the Solicitor General on Wednesday to 37 police services working with local organizations and community partners to enhance the capacity to support survivors of intimate partner violence and human trafficking.
BPS spokesperson Peter Leon says this program is a three-pronged approach.
“It includes specialized training for officers as well as our investigative members, and it’s going to be taught by a person who has lived through a human trafficking experience,” said Leon. “It’s going to be something that will be very meaningful to our officers and provide them with a greater understanding of the human trafficking issue.”
Leon said funds will also be used to create an outreach team that will help connect victims with localized resources.
“These are resources that are within our community,” he added. “We are very fortunate in a city the size of ours that we do have a number of resources that we can direct people who are survivors of human trafficking.”
As well, the BPS will be providing two “soft rooms” which will provide an upgrade to an existing interview room, but will also include an interview room at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre for those who are victims of human trafficking that identify as Indigenous persons.
“The whole idea behind a soft interview room is just as the term implies,” said Leon. “It’s softer, has more comfortable furniture, the setting isn’t necessarily lit with bright fluorescent lighting or overhead lighting. It’s a more subdued and relaxed setting, so a proper interview can take place while putting the victim at ease.”
Leon said this type of environment is important because it’s a trauma-based incident.
“We want to help individuals that are trapped in this lifestyle, and we want to hold those that are responsible to be accountable for their actions.”
Leon added that it’s important that police can provide guidance and direction for those that are trying to be free of these controlling individuals and direct them towards community-based resources.