Adult exploitation poster Image supplied by Bedfordshire Police

More referrals made in Bedfordshire than across the whole of Scotland

The number of potential victims of modern slavery passed through to the national referral mechanism (NRM) was the fifth highest of all police force areas in the UK.

This has prompted renewed calls for the public to keep their eyes open for signs of criminal exploitation.

Detective Inspector Katie Dounias, who leads Bedfordshire Police’s work around modern slavery, said:

“Slavery in today’s world can take many forms, beyond the common idea of people being forced to work long hours for little or no money.

“This includes cuckooing, where vulnerable people have their homes taken over by gangs to be used as drugs dens; children or vulnerable adults being forced to commit criminal acts such as dealing drugs, pickpocketing or shoplifting; forced marriage, or being forced to work in the sex industry.

“We need the public’s help to spot all these types of modern slavery and exploitation taking place in our communities, so we can help protect vulnerable people and bring the perpetrators of this criminality to justice.”

New poster showing the public the potential ways adults may show signs of modern slavery and criminal exploitation

Bedfordshire’s flagship Anti Slavery Partnership – co-chaired by Bedfordshire Police and national anti-slavery charity Unseen, and with representatives from all three local authorities as well as other agencies – has been leading the fight against modern slavery in the county since it was launched a little over a year ago.

The group has designed a new guide for front line practitioners across the county to spot the signs of adult exploitation.

The partnership has also released a new poster to the public around the potential ways adults may show signs of being exploited by criminal gangs.

While modern slavery and criminal exploitation can take many forms, these are some common signs to spot which may suggest someone is being exploited:

  • Physical appearance – may appear withdrawn, show signs of abuse or have unexplained and suspicious injuries
  • Isolation – victim may appear to be under the influence of others or seem unfamiliar with their surroundings
  • Poor living conditions – could be dirty and cramped, or the victim may live at the same place they work
  • Restricted movement – victim may not have their own travel documents or be let out on their own
  • Possessions – victims may have no ID, few possessions and always wear the same clothes
  • Won’t seek help – could always be with someone else, or appear hostile to police and other agencies
  • Unusual travel times – may regularly be dropped off or collected for work very early or late at night

Anyone who suspects someone is at risk of modern slavery can contact police on 101 or via the online reporting centre on the Bedfordshire Police website.

They can also speak to the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700.