“IT HAPPENS MORE THAN IT SHOULD”
NORTH OKANAGAN - As police in the North Okanagan continue to investigate a threat against a woman who met a man through an online website used by escorts, a longtime women’s outreach worker says these types of events are sadly not uncommon.
“It happens more than it should happen and that’s really sad,” HOPE Outreach’s Angie Lohr says. “Women are just trying to survive, support their families, support themselves.”
She’s been there. Years ago, Lohr was a drug addict who prostituted herself to feed her addiction. She’s since turned things around and now runs a street outreach program and safe house for women.
She says incidents like the one reported to police by a North Okanagan area woman are one of the risks of the job. In that specific case, police said a woman attended a pre-arranged meeting with a man in the Salmon River Road area. Police did not call the woman an escort, but said the meeting was set up on a website used by escorts and sex trade workers. The woman told police that upon arriving at the agreed upon location in her own vehicle, the man threatened her with a firearm. She fled unharmed and notified the authorities.
“So many women don’t report it,” Lohr says. “Good for her to stand up, and take a stand for other women in the same trade.”
Police arrested the man, who lives in the area of Salmon River Road and is known to frequent the Okanagan and Shuswap area. He was released without charges, however police continue to investigate and issued a public warning to sex trade workers, and the general public, to take precautions.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says it’s not uncommon for a suspect to be released without charges if the evidence gathered so far doesn’t meet the threshold for charge approval. Police are encouraging anyone with information about this case, or similar incidents, to report it.
The general area of this specific incident is near Yankee Flats Road, where two women went missing more than a year ago. A third was living in the Enderby and Salmon Arm area and had worked as an escort.
READ MORE: Families of missing women in North Okanagan gather to demand answers
Moskaluk says there is no immediate indication the cases are connected to the Salmon River Road investigation.
“At this time, we haven’t made any definite linkages to that incident, but of course as is the case with any investigation where there’s violence against a person… the investigators from other cases would consult with this current investigation to look for any information that might be advantageous to other investigations,” Moskaluk says.
In an effort to further the latest investigation and possibly bring to light other similar incidents, police are releasing a description of the man. His name, and other personal information, is being withheld due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Lohr is hopeful that if other women have experienced violence, they will speak up.
“Maybe because this lady came forward, more will too,” she says.
The man who was arrested in relation to the Salmon River Road area incident, and subsequently released, is described as:
• Height 5’6"
• Weight 140 lbs
• Blue eyes
• Dirty blond hair
• Known to be a drug user
RCMP investigators are asking that anyone with information about this matter or any other similar incidents contact the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP at 250-545-7171 or anonymously via Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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