Reporting suspicious behaviour could help a vulnerable victim be rescued from a life of slavery.
That’s the message from West Yorkshire Police’s Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Team which looks to safeguard victims and bring offenders to justice.
Through Programme Precision the team took part in a force-wide operation in November which aimed to target the use of illicit finances linked to modern slavery.
The operation sits under Project Aidant which is co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA)
Teams from each District (Wakefield, Kirklees, Leeds, Bradford and Calderdale) joined forces carrying out a range of activities across the county in the fight against organised exploitation.
Given the complex nature of potential offending work was carried out internally to raise awareness and help colleagues attack criminal finances.
Officers working with partner agencies also visited a number of premises as part of an intelligence led focus to counter this illegal activity.
They spoke to people in the various premises and made arrests for a range of offences under the Modern Slavery Act.
Four potential victims of trafficking were located and safeguarded with referrals being made to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Several thousand pounds of cash were seized with other high value items. Assets have also been seized from bank accounts.
Detective Inspector Rob Howarth leads the Force Precision Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Team.
“This work was particularly important as it showed people who we suspect of being involved in criminal behaviour and exploitation of vulnerable people that we are on to them.
“As part of Programme Precision the message is clear and simple we will not tolerate this behaviour in our communities, we will continue working with partners and communities to identify and pursue the people who feed their criminal lifestyle by seeking to exploit vulnerable people, it is not acceptable to treat a human being as a commodity”
“A lot of what the officers did during the week was based on intelligence people have given us. We need communities to keep their eyes and ears open, being more aware that modern slavery is out there, so it is really important to tell us so we can do something about it reporting suspected illegal activity in a particular premises.
“Alternatively it could be something that just doesn’t “feel right” – for example a large number of mattresses piled up outside a house.
“Human trafficking and modern day slavery are offences that “hidden in plain sight” and so the intelligence members of the community give us can help make a real difference and help us to help vulnerable victims and bring those responsible to justice.”
Mark Buns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and national APCC lead on Modern Slavery, said: “Criminals involved in this abhorrent abuse don’t care about those that they harm. What they do care about though is making money out of exploitation and other people’s misery, so it’s fantastic that this operation has been able to recovery large amounts of cash, and even more importantly, rescue and care for potential victims.
“There is a plethora of work on-going to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery, from enforcement such as this, to preventative partnership working and important awareness raising. We all have a role in helping to tackle and prevent these awful crimes and abuses, so if you do have any suspicions of modern slavery or human trafficking in your community, please report them to the police or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, thank you.”