Burnley was the one of the targets in a high profile police operation aimed at tackling human trafficking with a focus on forced labour.
Working under Operation Proteus a team of officers carried out targeted visits to specifically identified premises including car washes and nail bars, with colleagues from local Neighbourhood Police Teams and Immigration Enforcement.
Twenty premises were visited over three days across East Lancashire and nearly 70 foreign nationals were spoken with to ensure that they hadn’t been trafficked or were being forced to work against their will. Immigration Enforcement officers made two arrests in Burnley.
An Afghan man aged 19 was arrested for immigration offences at a premises on Manchester Road and at premises on Edmund Street a 25-year-old man from Pakistan was also arrested for immigration offences.
It was suspected that the businesses visited over the three days were not paying their employees minimum wage or paying tax and National Insurance in accordance with employment law. Reports have been submitted to HM Revenue and Customs for further investigation.
DS Tony Atkins, from the Op Proteus team, said: “This was a really successful week and has enabled us to gather a large amount of intelligence to help us to build up a picture of activity across East Lancashire.
“Despite the fact that no slavery or trafficking offences were uncovered, our activity shows our commitment to tackling this type of crime.
“Information gathered during the week will be shared with the relevant partner agencies and really highlights how positive inter departmental working and agency collaboration will enable us to combat the threat of trafficking and slavery across Lancashire.
“Across the rest of Lancashire it was a really valuable awareness raising activity and if it means that one member of the public or a potential victim is able to come forward with the confidence to report their concerns to us, then we have made an impact.”
Other areas of the county targeted included Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire under Operation Hornsman, which was led by the National Crime Agency’s UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). The week also saw activity taking place across Europe.
Officers visited premises like car washes, nail bars and takeaways where labour exploitation can commonly occur, to help raise awareness that is not something confined to history.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw added: “It was great to have the opportunity to see officers taking action against modern slavery and human trafficking here in Lancashire.
“It is vital work protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and a growing area of demand for the police. I am committed to ensuring the resources are there for the police to tackle this issue, and the criminals behind it, head on.”
Mr Grunshaw has funded an additional two roles in Lancashire to help address this growing issue which are based at Burnley police station.
The team has launched a series of complex investigations since it was set up in February including the deportation of two Romanian nationals arrested in Blackburn suspected of trafficking women into the UK for prostitution.
All week messages were also shared across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with more than 450 likes, comments, shares and retweets throughout the week, with a reach of thousands across all platforms.
The public are being urged to report their concerns to the police if they have any suspicions or if somethihg does not feel right to them.
If you suspect slavery is happening and there is no immediate threat to life then contact 101.
Lancashire Victims Services are also available to offer help and support, even if you haven’t reported a crime to the police. Contact them on 0300 323 0085.
More information can be found at http://www.lancashire.police.uk/help-advice/safer-communities/modern-slavery.aspx.