Force urges people to spot the signs of modern slavery

Derbyshire Police officers and staff are highlighting the signs of modern slavery and how you can report it as part of national Anti-Slavery Day.

Modern slavery can take many forms, including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery.

In Derbyshire, a specialist team has been established to gather information about modern slavery and human trafficking in the county.  Known as Operation Wilberforce, the team tries to identify and engage with victims and support detectives who investigate this type of crime.

Their most recent enforcement was last month, when several warrants were executed in Derby, finding ten people from Latvia believed to be victims of human trafficking.

Three men and two women were charged with modern slavery and human trafficking offences and are going through the courts.  A fourth man later arrested and charged.

Officials say that it is important to be aware of the warning signs of trafficking or modern slavery, as often the indicators of this type of abuse can be very subtle.

People who have been trafficked may:

  • Show signs of consistent abuse or have untreated health issues
  • Have no identification documents in their personal possession, and little or no finances of their own
  • Be unwilling to talk without a more ‘senior’ controlling person around, who may act as their translator
  • Sleep in a cramped, unhygienic room in a building that they are unable to freely leave
  • Be unable to leave their place of work to find different employment and fear that bad things may happen if they do
  • Be charged for accommodation or transport by their employers as a condition of their employment, at an unrealistic and inflated cost which is deducted from their wages.

They may be forced to work in certain types of industries or activities, such as:

  • Factories, farms or fast food restaurants
  • Domestic service, such as a cleaner or nanny
  • Street crime, such as pickpocketing or robbery
  • Services of a sexual nature

Detective Sergeant Gareth Smethem, from Operation Wilberforce, said: “Modern slaves can be found in prostitution, nail bars, car washes and in the building trade, but it could be happening in any industry and we need the public to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.

“We’re working to identify victims and get them the help and support they need. It’s a crime the public can really help us detect. When you go to a car wash or nail bar, look at the look at the demeanour and attitude of the people you see working there.

“They may look unkempt and there could be one person who seems to be in charge and the other workers appear unsure of them, or frightened.  Obviously not all businesses are like this but these are the kind of signs you should look out for.”

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Haward said: “Slavery, in any form, is a despicable abuse of vulnerable people. It preys on those who are most in need and is happening under our noses.

Organised crime groups are exploiting people for their own personal gain and it is incumbent on us all to do what we can to help prevent this from happening.”

For more information about trafficking and modern slavery, visit this dedicated webpage.

You can also find Operation Wilberforce on Twitter @DerbysMDS_HT

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