The problem of modern slavery in Lincolnshire is on the rise with police investigating more than 60 cases since 2016.
The problem is now widespread all over the UK with 665 active investigations across the country and 72 in the East Midlands, according to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Coordinator for East Midlands Detective Inspector Harry Dick.
There are currently nine cases being examined in Lincolnshire with the number of investigations rising from 22 in 2016 to 31 last year.
The figures were unveiled at a recent event – Modern Slavery: How to Protect your Business – in Sleaford, which was organised by the Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones.
The event, which was attended by over 60 people, was designed to help businesses protect themselves from the risks of modern slavery.
PCC Marc Jones said: “Modern slavery and the exploitation of the vulnerable is a barbaric and despicable crime that is not just a criminal act but a violation of our humanity.
“The event was designed to help local businesses comply with the law to not just protect themselves but also to work in partnership with the authorities to eradicate this evil.
“I’m delighted so many people attended and hope this is one step in the long, but important, journey to put an end to the human misery that results from modern slavery.”
Further slavery statistics
Head of operations for a leading Lincolnshire fresh produce supplier Shane Tyler revealed at the event he had identified 200 cases of exploited workers in the region during the last 12 months.
He said: “This problem undermines our ability to do business and threatens our communities.”
Professor in Criminal Investigation at De Montfort University Dave Walsh said Home Office statistics suggested thousands of people are being exploited in the UK, but small businesses were still largely unaware of the issue.
This is shown by statistics from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply that 61% of small business are unaware of the Modern Slavery Act.
In addition 67% had done nothing to ensure their business was compliant with the law.
Anyone with any information is urged to ring the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121700.
High profile cases in recent months have included a major operation which uncovered horrific cases of forced labour and imprisonment by a traveller family at sites near Lincoln.