More than 400 potential victims of modern slavery identified in Bedfordshire last year
More than 400 potential victims of modern slavery were identified in Bedfordshire last year – the ninth highest in the country.
Data from the Home Office shows 402 referrals were made to Bedfordshire Police by the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) between January and December 2021.
And 109 of those identified were children aged 17 and under.
The figures also show that labour exploitation is the most frequently reported exploitation type.
Officers visited car washes and nail bars across the county and engaged with owners and managers, as well as staff, to identify any concerns.
A number of lorries using Toddington Services on the M1 were also targeted and searched. This location has been identified as a place that is used by human traffickers to collect people who have been smuggled into the country.
And in July three men were charged with modern slavery offences as part of a drugs supply investigation in Biggleswade and Sandy.
Detective Inspector Alison Whitworth, the force lead for modern slavery, said: “Unfortunately modern slavery, and in particular labour exploitation, is becoming more and more common everywhere, and Bedfordshire is no exception.
“Vulnerable people are trafficked into or around the UK to carry out manual work. Their exploiters often take their passports from them, and they may be made to live in poor conditions with no means of leaving.
“The recent BBC documentary in which Olympian Sir Mo Farah has said he was trafficked to the UK as a child and forced to work as a domestic servant, has been pivotal in shining a light on modern slavery and human trafficking.
“Our officers are doing a great job in investigating and uncovering these types of crimes, as well as ensuring the victims are supported and safeguarded, but we also need members of the public to speak out and report any suspicions they may have.
“Tackling exploitation is everyone’s business and we all have a duty to be vigilant in spotting the signs.”