Modern slavery: Under reported, but on the rise in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 08:27 22 October 2019
Modern slavery is on the rise in Hertfordshire, according to the latest figures released by the county's police force.
The number of modern slavery offences in the county has risen from 10 in 2017, to 55 in 2018/19.
Despite the increase, it has proven difficult to secure convictions with just five arrests made in 2018/19.
Hertfordshire's Modern Slavery Partnership teamed up with organisations across the country for UK Anti-Slavery Day on October 18, raising awareness of the growing scourge of modern slavery.
Jo Fisher, chairperson of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership, and operations director for services for young people at Herts County Council, said: "Modern slavery is an under-reported and a little understood crime, but it is happening in Hertfordshire right now.
"Although difficult to detect, we know exploitation has a devastating and profound effect on the lives of the victims.
"The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership brings together all of the county's agencies to ensure that victims are identified and supported and offenders are brought to justice.
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"By helping people know how to spot the signs, we'll be more likely to be able to help victims get the protection they need."
Modern slavery can take a number of forms, including the coercion of people into forced labour, criminality and servitude. Many victims work in the construction industry, in agriculture, in the sex industry - and have often been trafficked from overseas.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, David Lloyd, warns that modern slavery "can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, nationality, gender or economic background".
"Victims are usually vulnerable, and criminals target them in order to coerce them into forced or exploitative work," he added.
"We now have a countywide modern slavery strategy with a co-ordinated action plan to identify and reduce all forms of modern slavery by increasing awareness, better coordinating of operational activity and ultimately providing a better service for victims."
Anyone with concerns about exploitation should call the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
Hertfordshire Beacon also supports victims and has a hotline - 03000 11 55 55 - which is open Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.
For more information visit stopexploitationherts.org.uk.