Women working in the sex trade in Ottawa are being warned by the city's top cop to watch out for their safety.
Chief Vern White issued the warning Friday, saying police have found a pattern in unsolved homicides in Ottawa involving sex trade workers.
Police aren't saying how many homicides have been linked, what the pattern is or how far back it goes. But they've confirmed a link and they want the community to know, Chief White said.
All women, especially those who work in the sex trade, should “be vigilant and exercise good safety practices,” he added.
Police say they will work with social service agencies in the city to reach women who need help. Meanwhile, officers will be canvassing streets and giving safety tips to workers.
“We want to ensure the safety of people in the future and today,” said Chief White. “So for us it's about trying to give them enough information so that they can protect themselves as well and so they understand the risks.”
Those who work with sex trade workers in Ottawa say they're hearing of an increase in violent dates on the street.
Workers are being told to stick to familiar dates, report bad ones and take time to think of personal safety before getting into a vehicle.
Ottawa police have also come up with handouts listing safety tips — one for women in general and one for sex trade workers. The handouts are being circulated around the city and posted on the police website.
The issue of safety for women who work in the sex trade has been pushed to the forefront in Canada after some high-profile murder cases in recent years.
In British Columbia, for instance, both the RCMP and Vancouver police have been heavily criticized for failing to take action when sex workers began disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Many of the women were aboriginal, estranged from their families, had drug and alcohol addictions or suffered from mental health issues.
Robert Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found at his farm. He has claimed he killed 49 women.