Help us stop human trafficking (30 July 2018)

Mark Burns-Williamson, National Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) lead on human trafficking and modern slavery, is marking World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (30/07) with a plea to communities for their help.

Mark said: "World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is an annual event and a real opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery.

"One of our best tools in the fight against human traffickers are our communities. We need our communities to report any suspicions, no matter how small, to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or to the Police.

"General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay.

"It can be an easy crime to overlook, it's nice to get a cheaper price on goods and services, but it's so important to stop and think about the human cost. Why is this product so cheap? Why does the member of staff look so tired? Why are their clothes so dirty?

"It's also a common misconception that people who have been trafficked can just walk away. Victims often don't speak English, they have their passports, money and other documents taken away from them, and if they even think about leaving they have the constant threat of physical violence, and even worse, very real threats on their families back home.

"We've heard a host of vivid and disturbing stories, most recently at our Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network, where victims had been told and even shown threats of extreme violence against their families. If this was your reality could you imagine even beginning to think about running away? v"Traffickers are masters of exploitation and coercion. They deploy simple but effective tactics to reinforce the perception of an inescapable situation for the victims. This can include making a point of shaking hands with police officers to make it appear to the victims that they are on friendly terms with law enforcement. They can also groom victims to work for them in enforcing their rules on other victims.

"All of this added up makes human trafficking and modern slavery exceptionally complex and demanding crimes to investigate and stop, and relies heavily on partners working together.

"Partnerships are a crucial part of the solution which is why I helped to create both the West Yorkshire Anti-Trafficking Network and the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network, the latter of which I also chair.

"Both of these partnership networks enable focused efforts on tackling these issues, specifically facilitating the development of best practice, information and intelligence sharing, and support for victims. These networks consist of key partners such as the Home Office, Police and Crime Commissioners, the Police Transformation Unit, The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Law enforcement, local authorities, charities and the third sector.

"In 2015 I helped to provide funding to set up a dedicated Human Trafficking Unit in West Yorkshire Police. The Unit has proved invaluable and it's most recent success, with the help of Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the charity, Hope for Justice, was rescuing two young people in Calderdale who were suspected of being victims of human trafficking. The Unit have now set up a Twitter account where you can follow their activities @WYPModSlavery.

"I would finish by reiterating that we really do need your help. If you see anything that you think may be human trafficking or modern slavery, please report it, you could literally be saving lives."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2018