North Yorkshire Police and our safeguarding partners are raising awareness about the disturbing issue of modern slavery and how everyone can play a part to tackle it locally.
Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking are exploitative crimes and are growing issues which affects men, woman and children. Victims are viewed as a commodity to be traded or exploited over and over again. This may be for use in criminal purposes, forced labour, domestic servitude or for sexual exploitation.
The National Crime Agency reported that in 2017, 5,145 potential victims of modern slavery were identified – a 35% increase on the previous year. However, due to the hidden and secretive nature of the crime, it is thought that there may potentially be tens of thousands of victims in the UK.
Cases of modern slavery have been found all across the country, at car washes, construction sites, in agricultural industries and in food processing. Victims are paid very little and forced to put up with poor living and working conditions. Some are forced into sex work or into the production of cannabis, with their freedom of movement removed from them, as their passports and papers are taken away which effectively traps them into the situation.
We need to highlight the fact that this crime is happening here in North Yorkshire and we are appealing to members of the public that if they see something suspicious, they must report it. Detective Inspector John Paul Freer, of North Yorkshire Police’s Safeguarding and Vulnerability Unit, said:
“Modern slavery and human trafficking are not confined to major cities. This issue affects all parts of the UK – it’s in our towns and cities, in our rural communities and we should not assume that North Yorkshire is not touched by this growing offence.
We know from national figures that modern slavery and human trafficking are on the increase, but the nature of these crimes means that victims are hidden and controlled. This makes it very hard to spot or recognise, particularly regarding victims of sexual exploitation, forced labour or domestic servitude.
It may be that as you legitimately go about your business, you inadvertently come into contact with individuals who are being exploited.
These include those who work in the food and restaurant industry, hotels and accommodation letting, farming and other rural businesses, and car washes and nail bars.
If you think an individual or a group of people are being exploited, please do the right thing and contact North Yorkshire Police on 101.
If there is an immediate threat, always dial 999.
You can also contact the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121700. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There is also the option to pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
The most important thing is to take action and tell someone. This will ensure that these demeaning, degrading and exploitative crimes are dealt with by the police and our partner agencies and the victims are supported.”
How to recognise the signs of modern slavery
Whilst slavery can be hard to identify, there are some indicative signs you can be aware of:
- PHYSICAL APPEARANCE – Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn
- ISOLATION – Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control and influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
- POOR LIVING CONDITIONS – Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address
- FEW OR NO PERSONAL EFFECTS – Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
- RESTRICTED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT – Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports
- UNUSUAL TRAVEL TIMES – They may be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night
- RELUCTANT TO SEEK HELP – Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.
If you see something suspicious please report it. Together we can break the cycle of exploitation.
Report information to:
- North Yorkshire Police – 101.
- Immediate threat – always dial 999
- Modern Slavery helpline (24/7) – 08000 121700
- Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111