Toronto police have noted a growing trend of Airbnb rentals being used for human trafficking, following two recent arrests in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Tyrel McLean and Dante Thaxter were arrested on Tuesday under the allegations of forcing a woman into the sex trade and sending her to Airbnb rentals across the GTA. One of the men also shot the woman when she said she no longer wanted to be an escort, according to Det.-Sgt. Nunzio Tramontozzi. The woman was injured, but police say she is now safe and recovering.
“We're seeing an emerging trend with human traffickers using more Airbnbs in the city of Toronto and the GTA,” Tramontozzi said at a press conference on Thursday. “It's more anonymous for them, so it's a lot easier not to be caught by the police when they're in these private type of residences rather than hotels and motels where we could get more information.”
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Police have seen an increase over the last two years or so in trafficking cases involving Airbnb rentals, Tramontozzi said.
The police have a good relationship with Airbnb, but it’s difficult to track cases like these without the help of the people renting them, he noted.
“There has to be more due diligence on the part of the… people that are renting out their properties,” Tramontozzi said at the conference. “We have a good relationship with Airbnb. We have brought our concerns to them, and they’re working with us to try and rid pimps of using their properties in Toronto.”
Airbnb is also looking at ways to help identify patterns and flag reservations with Polaris, the American company that runs the US National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris and Nick Shapiro, global head of trust and risk management at Airbnb, co-wrote a post that announced their combined commitment to tackling human trafficking.
“The urgency of this work cannot be overstated,” the post reads. “Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry that robs 25 million people around the globe of their freedom. It has no place in today's world and is antithetical to the open society we deeply believe in.”
For now, police are urging anyone with information on any potential victims of McLean and Thaxter to come forward.
Both men are facing charges around human trafficking, firearm possession, forcible confinement and threatening death, according to the Toronto Star.
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