Operation Aidant activity targets modern slavery across Staffordshire

Warrants, arrests, education and referrals to partner agencies were all part of a week of action targeting modern slavery across Staffordshire.

Last week (Monday 28 March – Friday 1 April) Staffordshire Police supported a national campaign, Operation Aidant, led by the National Crime Agency, to focus on vulnerability, exploitation and modern slavery, as well as raising vital awareness of these hidden crimes.

It was a multi-agency approach with the force’s Modern Slavery Team, neighbourhood police officers, Immigration Officers and colleagues from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and local authority, visiting a number of nail salons across the county.

While much of the activity was about prevention, education and recognising the signs of human trafficking and modern day slavery, operational activity looked at various avenues to locate and protect exploited individuals.

Officers acted on intelligence to execute a number of warrants, resulting in three arrests for immigration offences and a number of civil penalty notices being issued. Seventeen workers were interviewed with support from interpreters; they were given information on modern slavery and offered specialist help and support.

Detective Inspector Richard Gathergood, the force lead for Adult Safeguarding and Exploitation, believes that the pro-active work between the force and partner agencies has been hugely successful but much more must be done to identify victims of these types of crimes.

He said: “Protecting vulnerable and exploited victims and pursuing those who commit these offences is something we take extremely seriously.

“People who are trafficked into the UK are more likely to become exploited workers, usually working illegally and for little pay. They are expected to work long hours and could be housed in substandard living accommodation which is sometimes at the same premises they are working in.

“The nature of these crimes means that victims are hidden and controlled, so it can be hard to spot or recognise. Language can be an issue, as can trust of authority, so people don’t always speak up or seek the help they need.

“Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime and help us to investigate by reporting any concerns.”

The signs aren’t always obvious but these are some that you may notice:

– Being scared and withdrawn
– Lacking in confidence
– Unexplained injuries
– No access to passport or documents
– Limited contact with family, or outside world
– Doesn’t know home or work address
– Distrustful of the authorities
– Poor hygiene and unkempt appearance
– Signs their movements are being controlled
– Allows others to speak for them when addressed directly

Anyone with concerns about individuals who may be involved are urged to call us on 101 (999 in an emergency) or go to: Report | Staffordshire Police

Alternatively, suspicions can be raised anonymously through independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you think you are a victim of modern slavery please seek help. The Modern Slavery Helpline can assist you to understand what help is available including information, advice and ways to access support. The helpline is confidential and you don’t have to give your name if you don’t want to.

For more information, visit Modern Slavery Helpline or call 08000 121 700.

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