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The ALERT team in Calgary, which is comprised of three RCMP officers and three Calgary Police Service members, focus their efforts on organized crime, related to individuals or groups involved in human trafficking.
Bowers said perpetrators essentially keep their victims hostage by alienating them from others, taking away their access to phones or bank accounts, extortion, drugging and through threats to pets and loved ones.
“They’ll run these victims across Canada. These guys are smart … they’ll only keep the victims — majority girls — here for a week or two and then they move them to the next location,” said Bowers.
Last February, for example, a joint investigation between the Calgary and Quebec police departments resulted in charges against five people, three of which were Calgary men, linked to human trafficking of female sex-trade workers.
Fisher said sex trafficking is a hidden issue, often “swept under the rug” because it’s an uncomfortable topic laced with stigma. It’s also difficult to come forward with claims, considering some of the people exploiting men and women are “pillars of the community,” she added.
“It was a very shameful time for me,” Fisher remembered. “I honestly didn’t know how to approach or talk to anyone about this scenario. I felt like I was in the wrong, like it was my fault.”
She said her hope for Pure Hearts Trends is building a community and a place to “empower, support and heal” those who have been subject to abuse, in any form.