Published October 18, 2016 at 15:42
Look closer and modern slavery could be happening right in front of you – that’s the message from Lancashire Constabulary as part of their week of action.
From Monday 17 to Friday 21 October 2016, officers will be out in force carrying out checks on premises such as nail bars, car washes, massage parlours and properties suspected of being used as brothels, in a bid to find any potential victims and to ensure that our communities have a better understanding of what modern slavery is.
Refresher training will also be delivered to police officers and staff, whilst a conference aimed at frontline workers in various sectors across Lancashire will take place on Tuesday 18 October.
Representatives from the police and modern slavery charities in Romania will also be visiting Lancashire during the week to see how the constabulary is tackling the issue. This will also act as an opportunity to reinforce relationships with the foreign authorities to better support victims who have been trafficked to the UK.
Since January, 158 incident and intelligence reports have been submitted to Lancashire Constabulary with reference to modern slavery and since 1 April officers have made nine arrests. Whilst earlier this year three men were convicted for the trafficking of two young women in Preston who were forced to work in a brothel, and another man was convicted in a separate case for the running of brothels in Blackburn and Burnley. These were significant convictions at court and the perpetrators are now facing time behind bars.
But for the force it’s not just about arrests and securing convictions, but equipping the public with the knowledge about the types of businesses that the crimes might be occurring in and the sort of signs that victims may display.
Detective Chief Inspector Sion Hall, one of the force leads for modern slavery, said: “Here in Lancashire we want to raise as much awareness about modern slavery as we possibly can, and the aim of this week of activity is to drive home the message that it is happening, possibly right in front of you.
“We need the public to share information with us so that we can disrupt these activities and rescue those who are often living in fear and being subject to various forms of exploitation and abuse. Sometimes they are unaware they are victims, so it could be something that a member of public spots that leads to the discovery of a vulnerable person in need of help.”
Modern slavery involves the recruitment and movement of individuals using threats, deception and coercion for the purpose of exploitation.
It takes many forms but the most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. Victims are forced to work against their will in many different settings, including brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars, car washes, and agriculture and even within people’s homes.
There are a number of signs that could indicate that someone is a victim of slavery. They may:
- Show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
- Rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control and influence of others or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
- Live in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and could be living & working at the same address.
- Have few personal possessions, often wear the same clothes or are poorly equipped for the job they are carrying out.
- Have little opportunity to move freely and have no identification or travel documents in their possession.
- Be dropped off and collected for work on a regular basis either early or late at night.
- Avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fearful of law enforcers and authorities.
Detective Chief Inspector Hall added: “This is a complex area of policing, identifying modern slavery can be difficult, but we are already making progress in Lancashire. I would urge anyone who suspects that someone is being treated in this way to share that information anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or with us on 101.”
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, said: “We know modern slavery and human trafficking are happening in Lancashire and with help from the public we are determined to put a stop to it.
“These crimes can have devastating impacts on the lives of victims, who are often hidden in plain sight, and that is why we are asking members of the public to look closer because often the warning signs are right in front of us.
“Since I funded specialist roles to lead a team dedicated to investigating these cases, we have helped move vulnerable people to places of safety and bring offenders to justice – but, by keeping their eyes and ears open in their communities, residents can help us protect even more people in Lancashire.”
For more information take a look at the dedicated campaign page on Lancashire Police’s website homepage or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and look out for our #modernslavery#seeitshareit posts.