Massage parlours and hotels were visited by police during a week of action to tackle and raise awareness of modern slavery throughout the county.
Across Morecambe and Blackpool, 13 massage parlours and 30 hotels were visited by officers with support from Hope For Justice, a charity that aims to end modern slavery.
Hope for Justice’s European Programme Director, Neil Wain, who is the former Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Hope for Justice is committed to eradicating this barbaric crime. We have been working closely with police forces and agencies around the country, on rescue investigations and operations and also on specialist training for officers to improve their capacity to identify potential victims and respond.
“It is now vital to ensure those rescued get the support and aftercare they need. Ending slavery and bringing the traffickers to justice will require exactly the kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach we have been part of during this complex, intelligence-led investigation.”
In West Lancashire, Preston, Chorley and South Ribble, a total of nine car washes, three takeaways and a nail bar were visited.
In East Lancashire across Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson, nine nail bars and 12 car washes were visited throughout the week by detectives, Neighbourhood Police Teams, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Immigration Enforcement.
A total of 47 foreign nationals were spoken with to ensure that they hadn’t been trafficked or forced to work against their will. No welfare issues were raised but one juvenile was removed from a car wash and safeguarded, whilst a number of people were arrested by Immigration Enforcement.
No instances of slavery or trafficking were uncovered, but key premises will continue to be monitored and hotel managers were offered information on how to report suspicions or incidents to police.
DS Tony Atkins, one of the force’s leads working to tackle modern slavery, said: “All week we had officers out and about conducting checks and visits and helping to raise awareness of the issue, asking people to look closer and to report their concerns to us.
“It has been 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 the county.
“Despite the fact that no slavery or trafficking offences were uncovered, our activity shows our commitment to rooting out this type of crime and we will continue to target those who chose to exploit others.
“Tackling modern slavery is not something that the constabulary can do alone. Working closely with many statutory and voluntary agencies, like we have done this week, means that we can together help those who are being exploited and mistreated. Continued agency collaboration will enable us to combat the threat of trafficking and slavery across Lancashire.”
If something doesn’t feel right or you have a suspicion about trafficking or slavery; call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you think that someone is in immediate danger call 999.Call police on 101.