WEST Midlands Police has been praised for its contribution to a new report which is helping government and police understand the true scale of modern slavery in the UK – and which has revealed there are an estimated 4,200 potential victims in the West Midlands.
The report by anti-slavery charity Justice for Care and The Centre for Social Justice concludes there are likely to be around 100,000 slavery victims nationwide.
Previous estimates had placed the figure at between 10,000 and 13,000 – but a more accurate six-figure total has been calculated thanks to National Data Analytic Solutions (NDAS), a new data analysis project being led by West Midlands Police.
Justice for Care’s Chief Executive Officer Christian Guy said: “West Midlands Police’s innovation means that, for the first time, we have a much more accurate indication of the true extent of modern slavery in the UK.
“Their work should be recognised and built on. It’s key to ensuring our country’s response is proportionate and serious. We can also now take giant strides forward in our national assessment.”
NDAS uses data analytical tools to help build better intelligence and insight from police data.
The system was able to identify cases where slavery was likely to be involved and then pinpoint everyone likely to have been linked to the case.
Based on 2017 data, the system identified nearly 4,200 potential victims of modern slavery in the West Midlands – which, when extrapolated, suggests there are around 99,500 victims across the UK.
But it is thought many more remain hidden and unaccounted for.
From April 2019 to March 2020 almost 1,000 potential slavery victims identified by West Midlands Police and partners were fed into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the national framework for referring potential slavery victims to ensure they are safeguarded and receive support.
The force’s 2019-20 total of 969 amounted to eight per cent of the national total and represented a 45 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
And from January 2019 to June 30 this year, the force arrested 58 suspected traffickers under the Modern Slavery Act.
West Midlands Police also ran the biggest ever modern slavery investigation in the UK, which concluded last year when members of a Polish gang which had trafficked hundreds of people to the West Midlands were jailed for a total of 55 years.
They made victims work long hours on farms and in rubbish recycling centres for as little as £20 per week, while they made around £2million by plundering the bulk of their salaries and pocketing benefits applied for in their names.
West Midlands Police officers safeguarded up to 100 victims identified during the operation.
The report, It Still Happens Here, revealed the UK has been the top country of origin for suspected slavery victims over the last three years.
West Midlands Police Supt Sally Simpson, the force’s lead for slavery, said: “Traffickers abuse and exploit their victims in a multitude of forms with the most common types of exploitation being labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and domestic servitude.
“Modern slavery is often linked to other crimes. Trafficking gangs will use the identities of victims to commit benefit fraud and victims are also controlled with alcohol and drugs and may be forced to beg in the streets, engage in the sale of illicit tobacco or be exploited in brothels or car washes.
“It’s really important that our communities work with us to tackle slavery and trafficking – and to report any suspicious behaviour around properties.
“This could include people being collected from an address early in the morning and dropped off late at night, residents rarely leaving an address or appearing frightened or reluctant to talk to people.
“If something doesn’t seem right then let us know or contact or one of our anti-slavery partners.”
Contact West Midlands Police on Live Chat via www.west-midlands.police.uk or by calling 101. Alternatively contact the Modern Slavery Helpline
at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or by calling 08000 121700.