One-of-a-kind program going strong after 12 years
The RCMP’s Project Kare program was established in 2002 in response to the alarming number of missing and murdered women in Edmonton. According to RCMP officer Joe Verhaeghe, Edmonton has a high number of women involved in street-based sex work. He also described Alberta’s capital as a northern gateway city, which draws a higher number of vulnerable populations to Edmonton.
“The places where it’s an issue, are places like Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray and Edmonton,” said Verhaeghe. “The economy is good, there is oil field activity and lots of money.”
Project Kare operates separately from the Edmonton Police Service, and is strictly a non-enforcement program. Officers like Verhaeghe work to build trusting relationships with women working the streets, and get them registered into a special database. Names, birthdates, photos and hair samples are taken from the women, and are only to be used in emergency investigations by the RCMP if a woman were to go missing.
Produced by Anna Brooks and Allison Drinnan
As of 2013, over 2,000 workers have been registered with Project Kare. Program workers use a van do weekly patrols of the streets of Edmonton to check up on women, offer them supplies (such as condoms, mittens and snacks) and give them a warm ride if they need it.
Officers Verhaeghe and Violet MacFarlane of Project Kare offered reporters Anna Brooks and Allison Drinnan a late night ride-along to give the journalists more context about the lives of sex workers.
To find out more about our investigation of the sex trade in Alberta, visit the full website at www.sextradealberta.com