Crimestoppers have launched an appeal for people in Cambridgeshire to spot the signs of modern slavery and speak up anonymously to them if they know something or have suspicions.
Almost 17,000 victims of modern slavery from across the UK were referred to the Home Office last year, which is up by a third (33%) in only twelve months.
Annabelle Goodenough, south east regional manager for the charity, said: “Across the country, modern slavery and human trafficking is a prolific problem which sees criminals profit from the exploitation and misery of vulnerable men, women, and children.
“People smugglers place lives at great risk when left unchallenged.
“Here in Cambridgeshire, we can all help to end modern slavery and human trafficking by being aware of what to look out for.
“Perhaps when you next go to a take-away, car wash or nail bar and see something suspicious, tell Crimestoppers 100% anonymously. Pass any information to us which you think can help to stop this crime.
“Our charity employs a team of specially trained staff at our 24/7 UK-based contact centre who anonymise all information, before passing it on to police or other law enforcement agencies, to investigate and safeguard where necessary.
“Since we began in the 1980s, we’ve always kept our promise of anonymity to everyone who contacts us since we started in the 1980s. Call freephone 0800 555 111 at any time or use our anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org.
“We cannot trace calls or get IP addresses. What you pass on could make a real difference to those people who are being criminally exploited.”
Crimestoppers has launched an eight-week campaign focusing on the county to highlight the issue.
They hope people will come forward with information which will be used to stop criminal gangs profiting from the exploitation of vulnerable people, who are often brought into the country illegally.
The campaign will run on social media and include billboard advertising.
“These gangs are typically involved in other serious crimes, including drugs supply, violence as well as selling and using weapons including firearms,” said a Crimestoppers spokesperson.
“Victims are often ‘hidden in plain sight’. Any information, big or small, can help protect vulnerable people.
“Everyone who contacts the charity stays 100% anonymous whether they fill in secure and easy-to-use anonymous form on the Crimestoppers’ website or by calling freephone number 0800 555 111 at any time.”
The spokesperson said: “Criminal gangs make vast amounts of money from bringing people illegally into the country by lorries, small planes, and boats.
“Once these individuals arrive, they are exploited and can be made to take part in criminal activities such as cannabis cultivation, begging, shoplifting gangs and the sex industry.
“People are forced into domestic labour and coerced into working for little or no money, often in poor conditions, due to debt bondage, and are put to work, commonly within construction, hospitality, agriculture and often independent high street businesses, which are fronts for money laundering.”
Crimestoppers say modern slaves can be vulnerable people of all ages, including people from the UK, who are forced to work illegally against their will in many different sectors, including brothels, nail bars, take-aways, factories, the care sector, car washes and the fishing industry.
A victim may not realise they are being exploited. They can be forced to work and controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse, both to them and their families.
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