Detective Constable Karen Szeto is a VPD investigator specializing in human trafficking crimes. The tragic images of people crammed into containers or refrigerated trucks are actually images of human smuggling. Human trafficking is the specific act of exploiting people, particularly in the sex trade.
And it happens right here.
One of the most frightening and horrific elements of this type of crime is that it can happen to anyone. Karen and her colleagues have investigated cases with victims as young as 12. The predators, usually online, figure out what may be missing in someone’s life – friendship, companionship, low self-esteem – and use that to groom the victims into sex acts and the sex trade.
Even though these crimes are tracked, the statistics in Canada are very likely underrepresented in terms of the actual rate of human trafficking. So it’s happening more than we know. With so many more people and particularly youth online these days, more children and young people are at-risk. Karen wants to do something to change this.
Based on success in other cities like Seattle, Karen applied to the Vancouver Police Foundation for a grant to trial online ads about human trafficking to increase awareness about its prevalence and to ensure people know that they can turn to the police and other support organizations for help.
After the initial ads were produced we held focus groups with students in Grades 9 – 12 to get their thoughts. It was enlightening, to say the least! (For those of you not using TikTok, you’re missing out…😊) Their thoughtful comments and feedback helped Karen finalize the campaign, which launched online on June 9.
It’s our hope that the online campaign will reach not only victims but also potential victims, friends, and family who may suspect someone is being exploited.
If you believe you may be a victim, or if you know someone who is (or could be), please reach out to the VPD for more information.
Karen is like many VPD officers who chose careers in law enforcement because they wanted to help people and serve the community. But for Karen, it went beyond that. While she wanted to be a police officer from a young age, she is also an Asian female. She feels that by choosing this path, she is also helping to serve her community by being one of the many diverse members of the VPD that reflect our neighbourhoods. When we asked her what motivated her to specialize in human trafficking, she talked about her daughter and the fact that she wants to help as many people as possible, even if they don’t know that they need help.
Now that’s dedication.
The VPF gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the TELUS Future is Friendly Foundation for funding this program and for the incredible grant recipients like Karen, who each year, go above and beyond to make our community a better, safer place.
#aboveandbeyond #community #diversity #humantrafficking #sexploitation