Not long ago, after a bad summer full of gun and gang violence in Toronto and surrounding areas, the provincial government committed funding to police services to combat the growing problem. Waterloo Region benefitted from that investment, helping police with needed resources.
Recently, the Ford government made another announcement, investing more than $6 million over the next three years from the Proceeds of Crime Front-line Policing grant, to combat crime and build safer communities.
Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) will receive $836,527, which will go towards two projects fighting against human trafficking and sexual violence. Each project will see WRPS partner with various groups.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris says the funding – which comes from the repurposing of funds forfeited during criminal prosecutions – is a great way to help redirect resources from criminals and back into helping people in the community.
“The first [project that will be funded] is the sexual violence and harassment training and public awareness campaign. And the second, which is actually a joint project between the region and the city of Guelph, the title of it is the joint human trafficking unit. And what that’s actually going to do is create a new four-person unit that will include an officer from Guelph and officers from Waterloo Region, so it’s really great to see these types of things happening,” said Harris. “Obviously, human trafficking is kind of a dirty little secret of our area, being on the 401 corridor. A lot of people don’t really realize what sometimes happens behind closed doors and moves through our area.”
The Sexual Violence and Harassment Training and Public Awareness Campaign Initiative will receive $299,067 for interview training for frontline officers who provide the initial response to victims of sexual violence. WRPS will partner with the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region and the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre on the three-year educational campaign to raise awareness on the issue.
The second project will see the creation of the Joint Human Trafficking Unit in Waterloo and the city of Guelph. Some $537,000 will help create a four person unit that will include one officer from Guelph Police Service, two from WRPS and a human trafficking crisis intervention counsellor. This project will be a partnership between WRPS, Victim Services of Waterloo Region, the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre and Guelph Police Service.
Harris says the importance of this funding is to help build awareness of these problems that people may not know exist in the community.
“If people aren’t aware of it, it’s very hard to slow it down because people don’t know what to look for,” he said of human trafficking victims. “It could be sometimes very simple cues or could be a very blatantattempt to kidnap somebody… Having a dedicated team that can do that and investigate, I think is really important for the region. [With these officers] being able to dedicate their time full time to this type of initiative, rather than having to split their time with other duties, it will allow them to really hone in and focus on human trafficking specifically.”
WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin welcomed the funding from the government and hopes to use it to fight against trafficking in the region.
“We are grateful that the Ontario government recognizes and supports our continued commitment to public safety for residents of Waterloo Region,” said Larkin in a release. “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. It will also allow us to provide a uniform voice in the training of our members and education tothe community on the prevention of sexual violence and harassment.”