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Safeguarding Week 2019: Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking – it’s closer than you think

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To mark the second day of Safeguarding Week, North Yorkshire Police is turning its focus to modern slavery and human trafficking.

Many people think slavery is a thing of the past. Very sadly, they’d be wrong, as modern slavery is happening right now, all over the UK, including here in North Yorkshire.

Modern slavery is thought to be one of the most lucrative forms of organised crime, with the International Labour Organisation estimating its global annual worth at £150 billion*. Criminals view slavery as low risk in terms of enforcement and high reward, in the fact that victims can be exploited repeatedly, generating thousands in illegal profits each year.

In 2014 The UK Home Office estimated that 13,000 people were held in slavery across the UK**. However, further research and enforcement activity has led agencies such as the National Crime Agency to believe this is figure widely underestimated and that 13,000 is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’***.

Slavery can come in a number of forms, such as;

  • Forced labour – working long hours with little money, under threat and in fear
  • Sexual exploitation – forced prostitution
  • Servitude – being completely subjected to someone more powerful
  • Forced organ donation
  • Forced criminality – cannabis cultivation, begging, shop theft and drug delivering/dealing

Some industries, such as car washes, nail bars, food packaging and processing, construction, care homes, hospitality and catering, fishing, restaurant and takeaways are more susceptible to labour exploitation.

Over the past two years, North Yorkshire Police has been working hard to establish a picture of what modern slavery and human trafficking looks like in North Yorkshire.

A number of proactive police operations have been carried out, with local car washes, nail bars and restaurants being visited by officers to ensure businesses are adhering to rules and regulations around the legal status of employees and health and safety requirements.

In August 2018, North Yorkshire Police secured its first modern slavery conviction. The force currently has a number of live investigations ongoing and to date 12 people have been arrested across the county on suspicion of committing modern slavery offences. In addition, North Yorkshire Police are currently pursuing their first slavery and trafficking risk order against a number of individuals who are at risk of committing modern slavery offences.

Partnership working has also been key to the success in building our understanding of modern slavery. Sharing information and intelligence with our partner agencies enables a multi-agency response, allowing police to run operations alongside colleagues from the Home Office, HMRC and local agencies such as Trading Standards and the Environment Agency.

Two multi-agency partnerships have been set up to further this work. The North Yorkshire and City of York Modern Slavery Partnership, chaired by Detective Superintendent Allan Harder of North Yorkshire Police, was established in 2018. Made up of local government agencies, Community Safety Partnerships, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and charities such as the Red Cross, the partnership look to develop a strategic approach to eradicating modern slavery in our region.

The Modern Slavery and Illegal and Exploitative Working Group, chaired by Detective Inspector John Freer of North Yorkshire Police, is an operational group which looks to run joined-up law enforcement activity in North Yorkshire. Comprising of both national and local enforcement agencies, this forum seeks to tackle slavery through a number of regulatory powers, via joined up operational exercises.

Commenting on the work undertaken and the role the public can play in the fight against slavery, Detective Inspector Freer said:

“Understanding and tackling modern slavery and human trafficking is a priority to North Yorkshire Police.

“People mistakenly think that slavery impacts only densely populated, inner city areas. However, rural areas are vulnerable to slavery too and I can assure you, slavery is closer to you here in North Yorkshire than you think.

“Police are fully committed to finding the gangs who target and exploit vulnerable people. However, we need the eyes and the ears of the public to help us in our task.

“Safeguarding the vulnerable in our local community, and society as a whole, is everyone’s business and everyone has a role to play.

“If you have your suspicions that slavery might be happening near you or to someone you know, you can report it to police on 101 or in an emergency always dial 999.

“You can also make a report to the Modern Slavery Helpline – either online or over the phone. More information can be found on their website www.modernslaveryhelpline.org

“If you use hand car washes, nail bars or engage with any of the other industries or services which are susceptible to slavery, please be vigilant for any signs of forced labour. Do the employees look ok? Do they seem anxious or fearful? Are they wearing suitable clothing for the task they are carrying out? Do they have any visible injuries? Do they look you in the eye or seem to avoid conversation or contact? Are they brought to and picked up from work?  If there is anything which raises your suspicion – we want to know.”

For more information visit the North Yorkshire Police website and search for ‘modern slavery’.

Contact details:
Newsdesk Newsdesk - #6696
newsdesk@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk | 101
Last modified: June 25, 2019