Joint Forces Human Trafficking Strategy highlighted with arrests in Barrie

Two people have been charged

An investigation by Barrie Police and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was highlighted as the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS) was launched.

At a news conference at OPP Headquarters in Orillia on Wednesday, police shared details of two human trafficking investigations, Project Harwich and Project Wrigg, to showcase the cooperative work of the IJFS and the complexity of human trafficking in Ontario. The strategy involves 21 police services.

Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood said the Barrie Police Service (BPS) Human Trafficking Unit launched an investigation in January into a man suspected of trafficking several adult females in Barrie. The IJFS supported the investigation, named Project Harwich. Greenwood said it was determined the victims were trafficked out of hotels in the area.

“Through this support, an additional suspect was identified, and multiple victims were identified,” said Greenwood. “Other victims may be out there.”

Search warrants were executed on May 19 in Barrie and a suspect was arrested. A second person was arrested on Nov. 13. Two men in their 30s, one from Quebec and the other from Barrie, face trafficking and sexual assault charges.

Image – Barrie Police

Greenwood said she is appalled this type of activity is happening in the community.

“We know through some of the work that we have done in the past that human trafficking whether it’s through the sex trade or the labour industry is in our city.”

Barrie’s location along a major highway is seen as an attraction to traffickers.

“We know there is evidence to support that the 400 series highway is a method of transportation for traffickers to move victims back and forth,” said Greenwood. “They are established in the community and being along Highway 400 is impacting the ability to transport victims from the GTA to the north, and within our community.”

Once a victim is rescued, Greenwood said they work with them, and not just in isolation with Barrie police.

“We work with entities that are specifically trained to assist the victim through the investigative process, the court process, and the reintegrating back into society.”

Greenwood said Barrie police work jointly with other police services to ensure traffickers are held accountable and the victims are supported as they are rescued and exit from this exploitative offence.