Human trafficking is the theme of Crime Stoppers Month
January is Crime Stoppers Month, and officials in Greater Sudbury say the opioid crisis and human trafficking are top of mind.
The Crime Stoppers chapter in Sudbury, as well as others across the country, said their mission this year is to educate people and bring more awareness.
Crime Stoppers said it chose human trafficking for this year’s theme because it’s something that people don’t hear about often, but it needs to be talked about.
"Nobody really wants to hear about it but I think that is the most important thing is just to bring awareness that this is a real problem," said Terry Ames, director of Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers.
"We are losing children to human trafficking and we need to do something about it ... This is a real crisis."
Ames said it’s vital to call Crime Stoppers if residents see anything suspicious.
"You rather err on the side of caution than see something that doesn’t feel right and just let it go by," he said.
"We get lots of calls that are just suspicious calls but that’s OK. The foundation of our tipsters program is that it's anonymous … People want to feel comfortable in knowing that they can report these crimes and anything suspicious."
Chief Paul Pedersen of the Greater Sudbury Police Service said a few years ago, it was a crime that was almost unheard of; now the numbers are going up each year. In 2019 alone, there were 80 human trafficking investigations in Sudbury.
"We know that sexual assaults are underreported and human trafficking is even more underreported than that," said Pedersen.
He said the main reason many of the crimes are not reported is the women and girls who are being trafficked are afraid to come forward.
"That’s the whole basis for this crime. It is about control, it is about manipulation, it is about fear, it is about intimidation," Pedersen said.
"These women and young girls in our community are trapped and they are trapped by predators who do this purposefully.”
Since its inception in 1987, tips to Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers have led to more than 3,500 arrests.