Human Trafficking and Modern day Slavery is the illegal movement of people and an abhorrent crime, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation, amongst other motives. It is a terrible and often hidden crime with many victims transported through different countries and areas making it difficult to report, investigate and measure.
It is a significant emerging threat nationally and regionally within West Yorkshire, especially around forced labour and increasingly sexual exploitation. The identification and support of victims, and the pursuit and prosecution of offenders, requires a partnership response, with the police, local authorities, health, housing providers, law enforcement agencies and third sector organisations playing a key role.
Tackling human trafficking has been a priority in my Police and Crime plan since 2014 and last year I, along with West Yorkshire Police, set up a dedicated unit to investigate human trafficking. It works both locally and nationally to target organised criminal gangs and individuals who are seeking to traffic people into West Yorkshire from outside the UK and within. It is one of the first of its kind in the country and is leading the way in helping victims of human trafficking and bringing the offenders to justice.
The number of reported cases of human trafficking doubled in 2015, compared to the previous year, and the Human Trafficking Unit is carrying out 13 ‘live’ investigations across West Yorkshire.
It is vital that those responsible for trafficking people know that there is no place to hide and victims need to know that here in West Yorkshire the resources and support are in place to protect them, working together with organisations like the charity ‘Hope for Justice’ and the Salvation Army in raising awareness of this scourge on society.
I have now launched the first ever National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network alongside the Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland. The network was launched at the Home Office and involves Police and Crime Commissioners signing up to an agreement to help tackle the crime by sharing best practice and ensuring their Police Force are doing all they can working in a more coordinated and strategic way. By its very nature Human Trafficking is a regional, national and international issue affecting our local communities.
I’m ensuring that West Yorkshire Police, with our partners through the West Yorkshire Anti-Trafficking Network, are doing everything they can to tackle these awful crimes… but how can you help? Below are some warning signs of human trafficking that you can look out for:
- Heavy security personnel at the workplace?
- Barred windows, locked doors or electronic surveillance cameras?
- Does it look like people are living and working at the same address?
- Are the workers driven in between premises?
- Victims are often forced to live in cramped and/or overcrowded conditions.
- They are collected very early and/or returned late at night on a regular basis.
- They have inappropriate clothing for the work they are carrying out.
- They have a lack of safety equipment for the work they are carrying out.
- Their physical appearance may show signs of injury and/or malnourishment.
- Their general appearance may be unkempt.
- They may be isolated from the local community and/or appear under the control of others.
If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking then please call the police via 101 or if you believe someone’s life is at immediate risk then call 999. These reports will be taken seriously and followed up appropriately.