There have been 24 arrests and seven victims rescued in the first two days of a week of action, as Greater Manchester’s Programme Challenger joined partners from across the region to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.
Officers have also seized over £300,000 in cash and cheques, as well as counterfeit items including stamps, DVDs and clothes.
Three of those arrested have been charged in relation to modern slavery offences as part of a week of enforcement and safeguarding against modern slavery – which falls as Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and its partners mark one year since the establishment of a dedicated modern slavery unit.
The Modern Slavery Unit was set up in March 2015, as a specialist approach to tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. In the year that has followed, 89 victims of slavery have been located and safeguarded, almost a 900% rise since 2012. Seventy arrests have been made and convictions are now being sought under the new Modern Slavery Act which came into force last year.
Officers and support staff have increased patrols in key areas, visited business and residential premises of interest and attended local community events to raise awareness of the warning signs.
A number of warrants are being executed across Greater Manchester. Victims located are being taken to a reception centre where they will be given support and made safe from further harm.
The second week of action in six months has seen police, councils and agencies such as Immigration, Environmental Health, NHS, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, MASH and DWP working together to safeguard vulnerable people, educate the public and target offenders.
Up until 7pm Tuesday 8 March, multi-agency teams had visited 21 houses, nine car washes, five brothels and over 20 other businesses, including factories, nail bars, takeaways and restaurants across Greater Manchester. There have also been 24 arrests for offences including trafficking, servitude and immigration, and six victims located and safeguarded at the dedicated reception centre.
GMP Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson said:
“Slavery is happening to men, women and children across Greater Manchester, right under our noses. They are offered a better life, a good job and financial security for their families. The reality is often one of violence, intimidation and squalor.
“Modern slavery is much more subtle than that consigned to our history books. There are often no physical chains; rather victims are frequently bound to perpetrators by coercion and control, and often with no money and passport to leave”.
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said:
“Together with GMP and Programme Challenger, I have funded Stop The Traffik to lead a network of voluntary organisations and charities who can support victims of this heinous crime, providing bedding, clothing, and care packages to vulnerable people who have nothing to call their own.
“Whether in private homes or illicit businesses; we will root out slavery in all its forms, bringing offenders to justice, and offering protection and support to those people abused and stripped of their human rights and freedoms”
Amongst the support agencies working within the Modern Slavery Unit, Stop the Traffik is an organisation working globally to prevent human trafficking, prosecute human traffickers, and protect human trafficking victims.
Ruth Dearnley, CEO of Stop the Traffik said:
“Everyday people traffickers create new ways to increase their profits through the exploitation of men women and children. Stop the Traffik is excited to be coordinating the pioneering and creative network response to this terrible crime in Greater Manchester”.