Reports of slavery rocket in Cumbria - could you spot the telltale signs?
REPORTS of modern slavery across Cumbria have rocketed in the last six months as the charity Crimestoppers launches a new campaign to help tackle the growing crime today.
There have been 111 calls to the force providing intelligence on human exploitation in the last six months alone - compared to 130 during the previous year.
The alarming increase has also been seen nationally where there has been a 136 per cent increase in information received on the serious issue since April.
Detective Inspector Ginelle Ward, of Cumbria police, confirmed slavery is taking place in the county - with officers taking action to safeguard 23 people since January.
“People may think that modern day slavery doesn’t happen in Cumbria, and that it is only an issue for big cities," she added.
"This is far from the truth.
“The offences associated with modern day slavery are truly horrific.
"We will continue to protect vulnerable people and stop any exploitation as quickly as possible.
"Since January 2016 we have safeguarded 23 people and referred them to appropriate support agencies."
The campaign will aim to inform people about modern day slavery and the types of industries in which workers can be exploited.
DI Ward added: "Public information is vital in assisting our investigations and helping keep people safe.
"I would therefore appeal to the public if they have information on modern slavery to report it to Crimestoppers anonymously or contact the police."
Despite the known increases in reports to police of possible cases of slavery, it is believed that there are many more unknown offences still happening in Cumbria.
Victims can only be helped to freedom if residents across the area pass on information to the police when they have a concern.
Modern slavery predominantly affects vulnerable people and immigrants with a bias towards car washes, nail bars, agriculture and prostitution.
In particular, officers investigated pop-up brothels with Lithuanian women brought into Cumbria last year, as well labour exploitation at car washes.
Gary Murray, regional manager for Crimestoppers, described it as an "horrendous" crime.
He said: “That slavery is happening in Cumbria today is truly awful, but we want to reassure victims that it is an issue that is taken extremely seriously, and make it clear to perpetrators that they will be found and prosecuted.
“By launching this campaign, we will educate the public as to the signs to spot and let them know that they can take action on this horrendous crime, without compromising their anonymity.
"We need the public’s help to put a stop to crimes which affect many vulnerable people in our community.”
Cumbria's police and crime commissioner, Peter McCall, is also backing the campaign in a bid to halt incidents of modern day slavery from occurring in the county in future.
He said: “Modern Slavery is a scourge on our society, and I believe the first step towards eradicating it is to acknowledge and confront its existence.
“The threat of modern slavery is real and is happening in Cumbria and we can’t allow this type of crime to become established.”
- The person might show signs of injury, abuse and malnourishment
- They may look unkempt, be often seen wearing the same clothes and have poor hygiene
- Live in cramped, dirty and overcrowded accommodation
- Have no access or control of their passport or documents
- Appear scared, avoid eye contact and seem untrusting
- Be collected very early and returned very late at night on a regular basis
- May not have appropriate clothing for the work they are performing and little or no safety equipment
- May be isolated from their family and the local community.
Information can be given completely anonymously through Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or by using the online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Alternatively, you can report it directly to Cumbria police by calling 101.