Toronto Police apologize for refusing to file a missing-person report
When 27-year-old Alloura Wells' disappearance was first reported, the matter wasn't taken seriously, says Monica Forrester of Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project.
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The Toronto Police Service has apologized after family and friends of Alloura Wells, a transgender woman, said the force initially refused to take her disappearance seriously.
Wells, 27, who is said to have struggled with addiction, has not been heard from since a Facebook post in July. Some friends presumed she was incarcerated, while rumours also circulated about her body being found.
When those close to Wells realized that neither was the case, police at first refused to file a missing-person report, they said.
“If this was anyone else in the city, within 24 hours their face is splashed all over the TV,” said Monica Forrester of Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, the advocacy group leading the search for Wells. She said she had known Wells for about eight years.
Forrester — who has acted as a liaison with Wells’ family, with whom the missing woman had only intermittent contact — said that when police were first contacted last Sunday they were dismissive, with Wells' father told to call a non-emergency line.
“She’s trans, so it feels like she’s not been a priority,” Forrester said. “The only time when police act on missing sex workers or missing trans people is when they’re murdered. This needs to change.”
For their part, police at 51 Division realized their initial interactions with Wells’ family did not go over well, and on Wednesday posted a missing-person report online and pushed it on social media.
“The response that was apparently given, that is not what is expected of officers at 51 Division or anywhere else on the service,” said Toronto Police Service spokesperson Mark Pugash. “It doesn’t reflect what 51 Division does or what the rest of the service does.”
Pugash said Supt. Anthony Riviere of 51 Division had reached out to the family and was taking a “personal interest” in the case.
In a release, police say Wells — who also goes by the name Alloura Hennessy — has a slim build and brown shoulder-length hair that might be dyed blonde or pink. Friends say she has also gone by the surname Wheeler. Police say they fear for her safety.
Maggie’s will hold a search walk for Wells on Saturday from noon, with volunteers asked to meet at the southeast corner of Bloor and Parliament streets to comb over areas Wells was known to frequent.