Police in Staffordshire are raising awareness of Modern Slavery, as they fear those they've helped rescue are just the tip of the iceberg.
Modern slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery.
Victims can be men, women and children but it is most common amongst the vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups.
50 people have been rescued in the county in the last 12 months, including a group of around 30 people from Vietnam, who were found in the back of a lorry.
In another case a Romanian man was subjected to labour exploitation in another part of the UK and had escaped from those exploiting him, but was vulnerable to being targeted by other criminals. He was rescued by Staffordshire Police, and in conjunction with the Romanian Embassy safeguards were put in place before he was repatriated back to Romania.
The cases of Modern Slavery that officers in Staffordshire have come across include labour exploitation, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and cannabis cultivation, with other investigations still ongoing.
All frontline police officers in Staffordshire are receiving ongoing training to spot the signs of Modern Slavery in order to help combat the crime. This training covers the signs to look for, the law surrounding Modern Slavery and how and where victims should be referred for further help and protection.
Staffordshire Police are one of the first forces in the UK to obtain a Full Risk Order in relation to the trafficking of young girls under the Modern Slavery Act. Risk Orders restrict the activities of people involved in Trafficking which would enable them to continue in that line of what they would term “Business”. For example they could restrict age groups they can be in the company of, mobile phone use, being in specific locations etc.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Arnold is spearheading an awareness campaign in Staffordshire: “Modern Slavery is still happening across the UK and Staffordshire is not exempt. It is estimated 29.8 million people around the world are currently affected and it is an issue which we all need to face and work together to tackle the crime and help victims.
“Modern slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery. It is an abhorrent crime which is often hidden in plain sight. It’s extraordinary that in 2016 we are still talking about something that also happened hundreds of years ago.”
Detective Inspector Lindon Evans, Adult Safeguarding Enquiries Team added: “We have seen a number of examples of Modern Slavery in Staffordshire but I would not want to alarm people with these statistics or for people to think that we have an outbreak of Slavery in the county.
“The figures, to me, reflect the excellent work Staffordshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner have carried out in relation to raising the profile and educating people in relation to Modern Slavery.
“The investigations around these despicable crimes require a committed approach. All partners share our commitment to eradicating Modern Slavery from the county and protecting some of the most vulnerable people within our society.”