Officers are asking residents to remain vigilant and help spot the signs of Modern Day Slavery
Withdrawn, malnourished, reluctant to give eye contact – they could all be signs that someone is a victim of modern day slavery.
Today, as part of Anti-Slavery Day, officers are urging members of the public to be vigilant and encouraging them to report anything which they think might be suspicious, reminding them if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
Modern day slavery can come in many forms including sexual exploitation, being forced to commit crimes and working to pay-off unrealistic debts. A conviction in the UK can result in life imprisonment.
Head of Safeguarding at Northumbria Police Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Hall said: “We really want to reinforce the idea that anyone, from any background, or any walk of life can fall victim to trafficking, exploitation or slavery.
“The message we want to pass on to our communities is that if something appears suspicious, or doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t. Often people don’t realise they are victims of slavery – so it is important we encourage people to stay vigilant and alert, and if in doubt, speak to us.
“Do not be in any doubt that modern day slavery is an abhorrent crime which ruins lives, with offenders targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society. It is often hidden from sight and many people do not realise these offences can happen on our doorstep, here in the North East.
“We are determined to do all we can under the banner of Sanctuary to to protect those being exploited. We also regularly carry out operations to target offenders and put them before the courts.
"We all have a responsibility to help protect those who may be vulnerable and we believe that safeguarding is everyone's business."
Dame Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, said: “People are being coerced, they are being threatened and they are being forced to do things they don’t want to do. They are being kept in appalling conditions and often don’t fully comprehend the abuse they are being subjected to because of how immersed they are in the abuse. It is up to us to make sure the public understands that it is happening here and now in the North East and that we all must keep our eyes open and report anything suspicious. Northumbria Police is here and ready to respond.”
So what are the signs you need to look out for? Being a victim of slavery can have catastrophic effects on people which can often go unnoticed. Some of the easier signs to spot include:
Avoiding eye contact or a reluctance to talk to strangers - Victims might have been told lies about who they can trust, or might have been threatened by those controlling them meaning they are unsure of who they should believe
Restricted movement – it is possible victims never leave the house on their own meaning they have limited or no knowledge of where they live and work. They might be collected and dropped off at work at very strange times to avoid being seen by the public
Injured or malnourished – some slaves are abused so regular bruising and injuries could be a sign someone is controlling them. Victims generally live in poor and overcrowded conditions leading to a malnourished or dirty appearance
A lack of belongings – Victims often have no ID or passport which prevents them leaving. Their clothes may also be unsuitable for where they live and work
Remember, a reluctance to seek help does not mean it is not wanted.
Anyone with concerns about crime and human trafficking can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700. Established by the charity Unseen in October 2016, the helpline has received more 10,000 calls and online reports indicating over 11,000 potential victims of modern slavery.
Alternatively, you can contact your local neighbourhood policing team on 101.