Officers visit local businesses during crackdown on modern slavery

Police officers took part in a national initiative to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking on Wednesday, 22nd November.

Activity throughout the day included visits to business premises in Wilmslow, Handforth, Congleton and Warrington - in particular nail bars – to identify any individuals employed at these premises who may be getting exploited.

Officers issued advice and gave out information on trafficking and modern slavery along with carrying out welfare and safety checks on staff and the premises.

Whilst there were no arrests in Wilmslow or Handforth during the course of the day, an 18-year-old woman from Liverpool was arrested following a visit to a nail salon in Warrington for immigration offences.

Officers worked in partnership with Warrington Borough Council, Cheshire East, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the NHS and the British Red Cross.

Superintendent Paul Beauchamp, leading the operation, said: "Unfortunately we know human trafficking and modern slavery is happening in our county and, along with our partners, we are working hard to identify and protect those who may be at harm.

"Although officers regularly carry out operations into these types of offences, today provides an opportunity to raise awareness of such a hidden crime and highlight the signs and symptoms local communities should look out for.

"As a force and within our local communities there is still so much more we can do. I want to encourage the public to help us to help victims and to look out for the signs and report them to us."

Here are some of the common signs that may indicate that someone could be a victim of modern slavery:

• Appearance: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn
• Isolation: Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control or influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
• Poor living conditions: Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or be living and working at the same address
• Few or no personal effects: Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
• Unusual travel times: They may be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night
• Reluctant to seek help: Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

John Morris, British Red Cross director of independent living and emergency response in the North of England said: "The Red Cross has been asked by Cheshire Police to provide practical and emotional support to anyone evacuated as a result of this operation, in a place of safety.

"Our trained staff and volunteers were on standby to provide emotional support, as well as practical necessities such as clothing, refreshments and first aid.

"The Red Cross works alongside emergency services across the UK to help those in crisis.

"Information from the community, no matter how small or insignificant, can play a vital part in tackling modern slavery."

If you see something suspicious call Cheshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. People can also call the national modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700.