North East Lincolnshire saw 35 offences linked to modern slavery recorded in 12 months.
Humberside Police urged anyone with information of possible offences, “no matter how small”, to come forward so action can be taken. A councillor has said she believes the crime will increase in the area “if we are not on our guard”.
Last year, six nail bars and four carwashes in North East Lincolnshire had speculative visits based off local intelligence concerns about possible modern slavery. This was part of Operation Aidant, a scheme run each year by the National Crime Agency (NCA), to take action on reported incidents and highlight the signs of modern slavery to the public.
In total, in North East Lincolnshire there were 42 intelligence submissions and 35 recorded modern slavery offences from April 2021 to March 2022. More than two thirds of the recorded offences, 23, were criminal exploitation.
This information supplied by Humberside Police was contained in an updated report on the council’s approach to helping tackle modern slavery, heard by its Communities Scrutiny Panel. The panel were also told that 10 adults and 14 children were logged last year in North East Lincolnshire to the National Referral Mechanism as potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. Of these, 19 were identified as being criminally exploited, “primarily linked to County Lines activity”.
Modern slavery is the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children or adults through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation. In 2018, the multi-agency North East Lincolnshire Modern Slavery Partnership was set up. This coordinates actions to prevent and disrupt modern slavery, and to raise awareness of it with the community.
Humberside Police, Humberside Fire & Rescue Service, housing partners and Trading Standards are part of the partnership. Last year, an operational group was also set up to “to share information and utilise local intelligence to provide appropriate and proportionate responses to modern slavery concerns”, the report reviewed by the panel said.
A North East Lincolnshire Council spokesperson said: “According to national statistics, by the end of 2021 there were more than 12,000 potential victims of modern slavery, with almost half being children. This underscores the importance of the work done by Modern Slavery Partnerships such as ours to root out instances of exploitation.
“North East Lincolnshire Council chairs the North East Lincolnshire Modern Slavery Partnership, working closely with organisations including Humberside Police, the NHS and the Home Office to provide training for local organisations, to raise awareness of modern slavery among our local communities, and to prevent and disrupt modern slavery in the local area.
“Most recently, as part of Operation Aidant, our officers accompanied Humberside Police on visits to a number of local businesses based on intelligence, reinforcing the Partnership’s determination to act quickly to prevent criminal exploitation on our patch.
“The partnership arrangements within North East Lincolnshire to tackle and raise awareness around modern slavery remain robust and strong,” the report later stated. Online communications campaigns were an “integral part” of the partnership’s strategy to raise awareness, as well as 57 modern slavery champions across several organisations.
In 2021-22, over 180,000 people were reached via these online campaigns, with more than 5,700 also actively engaging with the content. Member of the scrutiny panel Cllr Nicola Aisthorpe said “people from all backgrounds can be victims” and told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) her own concern that the wider economic situation may make more people vulnerable to it. “With the cost of living crisis, it makes particular groups of people more vulnerable to exploitation.”
Ward surgeries in East Marsh had highlighted people “suffering” due to the increase in prices and a consequent increase in mental health issues and rent problems for some. In her view, modern slavery would increase “if we are not on our guard”.
“I think the officers involved in the multi partnership are very passionate and doing their best, doing a lot to gain intelligence and gain the trust of people who may be victims because that is a difficulty.” The partnership’s work was “excellent”, including an awareness campaign run by it. But she did admit she had not been aware of the partnership’s existence before and said she felt ward councillors should be more involved.
A concern of Cllr Aisthorpe was also that the North East Lincolnshire Modern Slavery Partnership has no dedicated set of funding for its activities. The partnership does not have funding of its own, but is able to apply for cash to pursue its strategy, such as the communication campaigns.
“Although you may not see it, modern day slavery exists and is happening all around us in places we might usually visit, but it goes unnoticed,” said Detective Inspector Nathan Reuben from Humberside Police’s modern slavery and human trafficking team. “From the local hand car wash, a nail bar or even your village takeaway.
“There is no typical victim profile – victims can be men, women and children of all ages, but it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, including minority groups or those who are socially excluded within our communities.” Humberside Police set up its own modern slavery taskforce in 2020.
“Alongside partnering agencies, we are dedicated to helping safeguard the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. Working together we hope to continue to raise awareness of the problem and encourage people to look beyond what may seem like a normal situation to see the person behind it and the predicament they may be in.
“If you have any information, no matter how small, and think somebody is being exploited it’s really important you get in touch so we can investigate and take action.”
There were close to 8,000 suspected victims of modern slavery in the UK in the first six months of 2022, according to independent organisation the British Standards Institute. Referrals of potential modern slavery victims to the National Referral Mechanism also rose from 2,340 in the UK in 2014, to more than 12,700 in 2021.
Humberside Police have a dedicated online information page about spotting the signs of modern slavery, which you can visit at www.humberside.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/ms/human-trafficking/
The police also advise that if an individual believes someone is a victim of modern day slavery call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.