Supporting victims of modern slavery at the earliest opportunity is the focus of a new Kent Police campaign launched in partnership with Crimestoppers UK.
A total of 379 victims were identified in Kent between 1 April 2020 and 7 March 2021, with exploitation taking various forms including sexual, by forced labour, domestic servitude or by committing criminal acts such as drug dealing on behalf of others.
Modern slavery can affect people from all walks of life and is not limited to non-UK residents, with 118 of the Kent victims being British. A further 33 victims were Chinese, 30 were Sudanese and 27 Albanian.
Over the next several weeks Kent Police will be running a marketing and social media campaign in partnership with Crimestoppers UK aimed at raising awareness of modern slavery and helping members of the public to spot the signs that somebody may be being exploited.
In addition to information and advice posted on the Kent Police and Crimestoppers websites, messages will also be shared through organisations including Neighbourhood Watch, parish and town councils and local chambers of commerce.
Leaflets will also be printed in a variety of languages and distributed in those communities where modern slavery and human trafficking offences are most prevalent.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve McLean of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Modern slavery is one of the fastest growing international crimes and is present in cities, towns and villages across the UK. It is therefore very important that we all know what signs to look out for, as we may very well be living next door to or visiting the same places as someone who needs our help.
‘Victims of modern slavery often live in poor conditions and may be too scared to come forward or report their experiences to the police, usually because they are being controlled by someone through mental or physical abuse or the threat of violence to them and their families.
‘We therefore rely heavily on members of the public to report their concerns to us so that we can take action to safeguard victims and target the criminals responsible. Just last month we arrested 12 people after carrying out warrants at addresses in Canterbury and London linked to the exploitation of migrant sex workers, and we will continue to investigate any reports we receive to ensure victims of all forms of modern slavery are offered a way out of the severe hardship they find themselves in.’
Signs that someone might be a victim of modern slavery include:
- Showing signs of injury, abuse and malnourishment;
- Looking unkempt, often in the same clothing and having poor hygiene;
- Appearing to be under the control and influence of others;
- Living in cramped, dirty, overcrowded accommodation;
- Having no access to or control of their passport or identity documents;
- Appearing scared, avoiding eye contact, and being untrusting;
- Allowing others to speak for them when addressed directly, rather than speaking for themselves;
- Being collected very early/returned late at night on a regular basis;
- Having inappropriate clothing for the work they are performing/lack of safety equipment;
- Being isolated from the local community and their family;
- Travelling only with other workers.
If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery or if you are a victim yourself then you can report it to Kent Police at www.kent.police.uk/report or by calling 101. If you are in immediate danger please call 999.
You can also call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers on 0800 55511 or by completing the online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
If you are interested in volunteering to help support vulnerable people in Kent then please visit the volunteering page of the Kent Police website at this link.