On a recent surveillance tasking, we observed some suspicious activity at an address in close proximity to our target. Being an ex-Scotland Yard detective, I recognised some of the signs that a person within the address was possibly a victim of modern slavery. We continued to observe, and my thoughts were cemented when I noticed this individual was working very long hours, didn’t look healthy and also looked extremely anxious. I made a confidential call to the Modern Slavery Helpline (08000 121 700) and left the investigation in the hands of the experts.
Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain.
Victims of modern slavery can be any age, gender, nationality and ethnicity. They are tricked or threatened into work and may feel unable to leave or report the crime through fear or intimidation. They may not recognise themselves as a victim.
Types of modern slavery include:
1. Human trafficking – adults and children are traded so they can be exploited by others for commercial gain.
2. Forced labour – victims are forced to work against their will, often working very long hours for little or no pay in dire conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families. It can happen in many sectors of the economy.
3. Sexual exploitation – victims are pressurised to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts, such as prostitution, escort work and pornography. Women and children make up the majority of victims, but men can also be affected.
4. Criminal exploitation – often controlled and maltreated, victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pickpocketing against their will. They might also have their benefits taken over by their exploiter.
5. Organ harvesting – the illegal removal of a person’s internal organs which can then be sold.
Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime.
The signs aren’t always obvious but there are some that you may notice:
1. Do they look scruffy, malnourished or injured?
2. Are they acting anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact?
3. Are they working long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job?
4. Is where they are living overcrowded, poorly maintained, are the curtains always closed?
5. Do they behave like they’re being instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification?
To report a suspicion or seek advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.