Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is urging the public to recognise the signs of modern slavery and report anything that seems suspicious.
Modern slavery is the exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Modern slaves are often brought into the country under the promise of a better life but are exploited by human traffickers and are forced to work long hours in unreasonable work conditions, forced to hand over their wages and given unsuitable lodgings.
Over the last 12 months in Cumbria, Police have made 12 arrests in relation to modern slavery with 34 victims being identified. Around 38% of victims were UK residents and 62% were from outside of the UK. In the last year, drug-related labour has been the most common type of modern slavery within Cumbria with 23 cases involving drugs. Sex work came in second with six cases in the last twelve months.
Signs that someone may be a modern slave are:
- They are reluctant to speak or interact with strangers and are often nervous
- They wear the same clothes every day that are often dirty or worn
- They have no form of ID
- They seem tired or starved
- They seem to work all day, every day
Signs of illegal brothels, where victims are forced into sex work, may be a constant flow of people entering and exiting the house, various cars parking outside and those who live in the house rarely leaving the property.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Many of us think of slavery as an atrocity of the past but it still happens in modern times and, sadly, does happen in Cumbria.
“People trapped in modern slavery are often forced to work for little to no pay that include physical labour, prostitution, organ removal, domestic work or forced into marriages – including children.
“It is so important that we can all recognise the signs of modern slavery so that we can help these individuals that are victimised, isolated and, often, abused.
“If you think someone is a modern slave, please report it to the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
“The public can also report anything suspicious to the Modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Donnelly is Cumbria Constabulary’s force lead for modern slavery.
He said: “People may in the past have thought cases such as this don’t happen in somewhere like Cumbria – but we have real examples which demonstrate this is an issue for this county as well as the rest of the UK.
“Both police and our partners have carried out significant work across Cumbria to raise public awareness of these crimes. “We work hard to protect vulnerable people, stop any possible exploitation as quickly as possible and to bring anyone found responsible for these crimes to justice.
“One of our key priorities is to safeguard those victims of these offences and the public can have a part to play in helping us protect these people.
“Many of these cases are identified through the vigilance of the public and our partners as they become more aware and attuned to identifying victims and offenders alike.
“So, as always, we would urge anyone with information or any concerns to contact us as soon as possible.”