On Monday, West Mercia began the two-week ‘intensification period’ that sees police and partners take a stand against modern-day slavery in the industry.
The operation, dubbed ‘Operation Aidant’ is coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and runs nationally every year, focusing on vulnerability, exploitation and modern slavery.
The police activity seeks to enhance and develop knowledge of labour exploitation within the construction industry and highlight the signs of modern slavery that people may encounter in their everyday lives and encourage people to report it.
The first week of the operation is aimed at increasing public awareness, with officers throughout the force proactively targeting several plants and tool hire premises offering advice and education on the signs to look out for, as well as incorporating SmartWater forensic liquid, to help keep the tools they hire out safe from theft.
Next week, West Mercia Police will ‘ramp up’ efforts to target industry sites. Officers will target construction sites, looking to identify any signs of modern-day slavery, in particular workers who may be victims of trafficking and exploitation.
According to the NCA, modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK are far more prevalent than previously thought.
Cases of modern slavery have been found across the West Mercia region, at car washes, construction sites, in agricultural industries and food processing, with victims being paid little and forced to put up with poor living and working conditions.
Detective Superintendent Leanne Lowe said: “We know there are many men, women and children who have been forced into modern-day slavery by organised crime groups, with many of them forced into situations where they work for next to no pay, and in some cases have key documents taken from them, such as driving licences and passports.
“The nature of these crimes means that victims are hidden and controlled, so it can be hard to spot or recognise. Language can be an issue, as can trust of authority, so people don’t always speak up or seek the help they need.”
“Focussing on construction sites we aim to identify and safeguard people being exploited by these groups, and it is why our Local Policing Teams are being supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Immigration, the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“West Mercia Police is committed to tackling this type of crime and we are determined to safeguard those who fall victim at the hands of criminals. However, we need the information from the public in order to help us identify evidence of Modern Day Slavery.”
Police are asking anyone with information to call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
Source By https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/crime/2023/07/03/west-mercia-police-targets-modern-day-slavery-in-construction-industry/