Human trafficking in Peterborough has seen a dramatic increase over the last year, crisis workers in the city say.
Victim Services of Peterborough and Northumberland (VSPN) set up a booth at Lansdowne Place on Saturday to recruit more volunteers and collect donated items for victims.
“There has been an increase of human trafficking in the area. [Cases] in the first quarter alone were up 311 per cent over the entire year,” said crisis intervention worker Leslie Kirton.
Kirton says she already has 28 files on her desk related to human trafficking cases for this year alone.
“The minister last October released millions and millions of dollars [to help combat] human trafficking because it’s a problem everywhere — not just Peterborough, but everywhere, especially [in] major cities,” Kirton said.
With the increased investment came more cases, and a greater need for support staff to help fight the problem.
“I did a lot of calls for abused and battered women — we had a lot of abuse cases where women were trying to extract themselves from that situation, and we would go in to help them shore up their finances, find safe places to relocate to,” said past volunteer Adam Bradley.
Bradley previously volunteered with VSPN and he says the skills he gained there had a massive impact on his life, making him a far better officer with the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The self-worth that it gave me, the confidence to be able to go out into a dangerous situation in some cases — there is a lot going on in a very short period of time,” Bradley explained.
In addition to helping in the Victims Services office, volunteers go out at night to provide emotional and practical support to victims.
“We provide 911 phones — sometimes that old used phone that we have in the drawer can make the difference of life [or] death for someone leaving an abusive situation,” Kirton said.
In the last few years, the Ministry of the Attorney General has launched several initiatives to end human trafficking.
In May, the province passed the Anti Human Trafficking Act to increase protection for survivors of human trafficking and make it easier for survivors to pursue compensation.
VSPN, which currently works with around 16 volunteers, is always looking for new volunteers to assist in its work.
The application can be found online and training to be a volunteer with the community-based organization begins in September.