Lancashire Police has joined forces with partners across the region to raise awareness of modern slavery and how it can affect the homeless and rough sleeping community.
Op Aident is a campaign aimed at highlighting how the homeless can be victims and be vulnerable to exploitation, helping them spot the signs and signposting them to where to get help.
The week-long campaign saw police outreach teams and health representatives engaging with the homeless in Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn and Lancaster.
They attended the Foxton Centre, in Preston, where Stewart Roberts, who is an ambassador from Haircuts4homeless, gave free haircuts. Haircuts4homeless is a community of hairdresser volunteers who give their free time to give haircuts for homeless people.
An outreach team of volunteers, supported by Burnley FC’s Community Café, were also raising awareness in Burnley.
Read more: Shining a spotlight on Preston's homeless people and Supporting the homeless in Preston over Christmas
Sergeant Abi Finch-Hall of Lancashire Police said: “Modern slavery is happening in Lancashire and could be taking place in your local area.
“The more awareness we can generate the better, not only within the homeless community, but also with retailers and businesses who may interact with the homeless or rough sleeping community.
“Signs to look out for include potential exploiters, who may look to recruit victims at places where the homeless or rough sleeping community spend time together.
“Exploiters may display threatening behaviour or appear to control their victims in some way. You may see people being dropped off or collected at the same time by the same vehicle. Potential victims could also be forced or coerced into criminality or forced to beg on behalf of their exploiter.
“If anyone has any concerns we would urge them to contact the modern day slavery helpline on 08000 121 700, or alternatively you can report on lancashire.police.uk/reportonline.”
Chris Webb, Lancashire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner added: “Tackling modern slavery and human trafficking is a key priority for the Commissioner, protecting those most at risk of becoming victims and ensuring they get support.
“We know that criminals who force people into modern slavery and human trafficking target vulnerable people, including those who are homeless or have no permanent safe place to stay.
“I am pleased to join the team of volunteers engaging with homeless people in Preston and other areas across Lancashire, making sure people are aware of the risks posed by criminals and the signs to look out for, whilst signposting to services that offer help.”