Today (Monday 18 October 2021) officers from Kent Police are marking Anti-Slavery Day 2021 by appealing to people to be aware of the signs of modern slavery and exploitation.
Across the country, organised crime groups continue to exploit vulnerable individuals often for financial gain. It affects all our communities and everyday policing, whether it is enforced labour, brothels, cannabis farms, benefit fraud, forced marriages or domestic servitude.
In the last year, 632 investigations have been recorded under the Modern Slavery Act in Kent, 46 suspects have been arrested and 469 potential victims have been referred to the National Referral Mechanism. However, the actual number of people in Kent affected by this crime type is unknown as it often goes unreported and undetected within the community.
Power and control
Detective Superintendent Lee Morton, Head of Serious and Organised Crime, said:
'Those committing crimes in this area rely on the power and control they have on some of the most vulnerable victims in society. This power and control limits the information available to law enforcement to tackle this hidden harm in our communities.
'Please make yourself aware of the signs displayed by victims, this may help provide the vital piece of information to tackle an organised crime group who are using people as a commodity. Most importantly share that information by submitting the intelligence from what you see or are told.'
There is no single sign that determines whether an individual, or a group of people, is in the process of being exploited. There are however things to look out for which are common across all forms of modern slavery. This includes:
• Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, anxious/agitated or appear withdrawn.• They will have little or no money and no control over their bank accounts.
• Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control or influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
• Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcement agencies for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.
Can you help?
As part of the Anti-Slavery Day campaign, members of the public are being urged to look out for signs of modern day slavery – and if they see it, to report it to the police on 101 or the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 who can also take reports from people with suspicions or concerns about individuals, premises or locations and offer free, confidential help, advice and support 24/7.