If you suspect it, report it, say Devon authorities

Posted on: 14 August 2017

As the National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that modern slavery and human trafficking is more prevalent than previously thought, Devon’s Safer Devon Partnership is urging people to be alive to the warning signs and to tell others of their suspicions.

The NCA Director, Will Kerr, said last week:

“The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable.

“The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated.”

Examples cited where modern slavery exists are in industries including construction, agriculture and food processing, while others may be being sold into illegal activities including sex work.

“This is a crime which affects all types of communities across every part of the United Kingdom,” says Mr Kerr.

“It is difficult to spot because often victims don’t even know they are being exploited. Nevertheless we need those communities to be our eyes and ears.

“There will be people living and working where victims come into contact with everyone else’s so-called normal lives.

“They may see something they feel is not quite right. That might be someone seeming afraid, vulnerable or being controlled, moved around or forced to work against their will. If they do, we need the public to speak to us.”

Devon’s Safer Devon Partnership is echoing the call.

“So often, people think that issues such as modern slavery don’t affect people living in Devon, and the misconception is that these things only happen in big cities,” says the Partnership’s Chairman, Dr Virginia Pearson.

“This isn’t the case. Devon has had cases of modern slavery, and it’s really important that people know the signs to look out for, so that we can work together to help prevent further cases in the future.

“Our message is this: If you suspect something is wrong, we want to encourage you come forward to report it, or to speak to someone else you trust.”

The Safer Devon Partnership launched a campaign this year to raise awareness of modern slavery, as well as child sexual exploitation and violent extremism in Devon.

The campaign, ‘Be Curious’, uses short animations to highlight potential signs of all three issues, to help people spot if something is not right.

For modern slavery, those signs include:

• People being kept as slaves might have their movements restricted. They may also be collected or dropped off to work at very unusual times to avoid being seen by members of the public.
• They may have visible injuries or bruises and/or be malnourished.
• They may not have many belongings and could be wearing the same clothes every day which may be dirty and/or unsuitable for the weather or for the work they are doing
• People who appear to be being forced to work against their will
• People who are unhappy or unresponsive in the work place
• People who rarely interact with others or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work

The animations are available on You Tube, here:
Modern Slavery , Violent Extremism , Child Sexual Exploitation

The campaign also offers the appropriate helplines for each of the three issues, for anyone wanting more advice or information.

Julian Pezzani, Devon Partnership Inspector for Devon and Cornwall Police, said:

“Keeping everyone safe in the community is everyone’s responsibility. We would encourage the public to be aware of the signs to look out for and to report any unusual or suspicious behaviour in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously.

“We hope that the Be Curious campaign will help members of the public start to recognise the potential signs for any of these issues and feel confident that if they think something is wrong, it’s okay to seek advice.

“Anyone with suspicions can call their local police force on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.”

The Safer Devon Partnership consists of:
• Devon County Council
• Devon and Cornwall Police
• Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue
• Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
• Clinical Commissioning Groups
• National Probation Service
• Community Rehabilitation Company
• District Community Safety Partnerships

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