Officers posed as clients during investigation Project Northern Spotlight, advocates say
A nation-wide police blitz that sex workers say involved police officers posing as clients to investigate human trafficking in the sex trade used dishonest tactics, advocates say.
Big Susie’s, a Hamilton-based group founded by and for sex workers, joined five other advocacy groups across the country to voice their concerns about Project Northern Spotlight, a nation-wide police initiative aimed at identifying young women coerced into sex trade.
The two-day blitz, which took place on Jan. 22 and 23, was coordinated by the Durham Regional Police Services and involved 26 police services across 32 cities.
The blitz took place at hotels and motels on major roads, according to a release by Durham police. More than 330 women and girls — some as young as 15 — were interviewed.
Police officers posed as clients and booked appointments with sex workers during the blitz, according to a joint statement issued by the groups. As they checked for signs of trafficking or coercion, officers “bombarded” sex workers with personal questions, asked to see identifications and searched the sex workers’ premises and belongings, the statement said.
“They are using dishonest methods to gain access to sex workers,” said Mz. Scream, who sits on the board of directors at Big Susie’s. “When police show up at sex workers’ doors, it can affect the sex workers’ relationship with their neighbours and landlords, and can also scare away clients who require a great deal of confidentiality.”
Mz. Scream, a former dominatrix and current university student in sexuality studies, asked to use her professional pseudonym instead of her real name.