Thames Valley Police has revealed it records three modern slavery crimes every week across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire as part of a new anti-abuse campaign.
The force’s Hidden Harm campaign to tackle abuse in Thames Valley calls on the public to ‘open your eyes to abuse’ as it starts today (Monday, October 10). Head of protecting vulnerable people Detective Superintendent Nick John said: ‘It’s a common misconception that slavery doesn’t exist anymore or that it’s a crime that doesn’t affect us here in the UK. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “Modern slavery is happening in this country and, more specifically, right here in Thames Valley. “In the past two years, 120 modern slavery crimes have been recorded across our area. “With offences in every county of the force, it’s a stark reminder that this is an offence that could happen anywhere, even in your community. “It’s also a crime that affects people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and nationalities, even people from here in the UK. “In fact, last year in Thames Valley, UK nationals were the most common victims of modern slavery. “Whilst we have seen a significant increase in reporting of these crimes over the past year we know that many more go unreported. “We rely on information from members of the public in order to identify these crimes, safeguard victims and bring offenders to justice. We cannot do this alone. “This is why it’s so important that members of the public know how to recognise the signs of modern slavery and who to speak to about their concerns. “We all have a role to play in keeping people safe from harm, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. “If you suspect something, no matter how small, report it - either confidentially via the Modern Slavery Helpline or to us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.” Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain.
Victims are tricked or threatened into work and many feel unable to leave through fear or intimidation. The signs that someone may be a victim of modern slavery aren’t always obvious but there are some things you may notice. For example; someone looking scruffy or injured, acting anxiously or afraid, living in overcrowded or poorly maintained accommodation and working long hours or wearing unsuitable clothing. Justine Currell, executive director of Unseen, which runs the Modern Slavery Helpline, said: “The 24/7 confidential Modern Slavery Helpline takes calls from potential victims, statutory agencies, businesses and the public on all aspects of modern slavery. “We have taken over 2,500 calls in less than 12 months and made over 1,000 referrals to the police and safeguarding teams across the UK. “This highlights the important role the helpline plays in giving advice and guidance to those in need, supporting access to services, and preventing more people from becoming victims. “If you want advice, guidance or need support on any modern slavery issue contact the Modern Slavery Helpline anytime night or day on 08000 121 700.” Thames Valley Police’s Hidden Harm campaign will run over the next 18 months focussing on a number of different abuse-related crimes including: modern slavery, child abuse, honour based abuse, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse and hate crime. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of crimes happening right now in the heart of our communities which often go undetected or unreported. The message underpinning the entire campaign is simple - Open your eyes to abuse. It could be happening in your community so if you suspect it, report it. The modern slavery phase of this campaign will see ongoing activity for the first three weeks of October to raise awareness of this crime. A number of partners will also be showing their support including local authorities, health services and charities. Follow the campaign via @ThamesVP on Twitter and the Thames Valley Police Facebook account using #HiddenHarm. For more information on the campaign, and the signs of modern slavery, visit www.thamesvalley.police.uk/hiddenharm.