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Alarming human trafficking stats in Timmins, signs evolving

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There is a reason why people in Timmins may be seeing posters that alert them to human trafficking in the community.

Whether in an airport, bus terminal or hotel, Timmins and District Victim Services is doing what it can to raise awareness about the issue.

“Two new brand new billboards, hopefully within the next 30 days, (will be) up on both of our outskirts," said Melissa Turcotte, executive director of Timmins and District Victim Services.

"One of them will be the alarming stat of that it’s happening within 10 kilometres of this sign just to sort of give people that aha moment of you think it’s not happening here it absolutely is.”

A Timmins police officer is also trained to deliver presentations on the topic.

“Public awareness is a key factor in acting as a deterrent towards this type of criminal activity," said Marc Depatie, communications coordinator for the Timmins Police Service.

"The better informed our community is, the better it is that won’t stand to be a victim of this type of criminal activities.”

While police said no human trafficking investigations have taken place in the past six months, Timmins and District Victim Services said it has helped 24 victims in that same time period.

"A victim has to file a formal complaint with the Timmins Police Service in order for an investigation to take place," said Depatie.

Turcotte said it can take months to build a rapport with someone. She said some who've hit rock bottom or who are looking to exit the life may come through her doors numerous times before saying anything.

Signs that someone is being forced into labour or who is sexually exploited constantly evolve.

“Someone who might have things that they could not afford on their own, that might be someone who has been branded is something that we’ve seen in the sex world a little bit more frequently lately," said Turcotte.

"More recently we’ve seen like the shaved head, so that’s like a debt that they’ve owed particularly in the drug world.”

Timmins and District Victim Services said the average recruitment age of a victim is 17 years old and all victims know their traffickers.

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