Modern slavery can happen 'under your nose' '“ police share awareness message on anti-slavery day
North Yorkshire Police is raising awareness of modern slavery to help people recognise the crime.
Over the past three years the force says there has been a "significant" increase in modern slavery crimes, which is believed to be due to the rise in awareness.
However, today, on anti-slavery day, officers want to explain what the crime is in the hope that more people would recognise it and report it.
Detective Inspector John Paul Freer from the North Yorkshire Police Vulnerable Adults Team said: "Modern slavery can be broken down into two parts. The first part relates to holding a person in slavery or servitude or forcing them to perform forced or compulsory labour. Vulnerable people are treated as mere items or possessions, a commodity to be bought and sold, to do with as they wish, for the benefit of others. And yes, this does happen right here in North Yorkshire.
"The second part is commonly known as human trafficking, this essentially relates to arranging or facilitating the movement of an individual with the intention to exploit them. This exploitation can take many forms including labour, sexual (rape), criminal (including cannabis cultivation, shop lifting, begging) and domestic servitude. Again, this happens right here in North Yorkshire."
Det Insp Freer went on to say that modern slavery is a "hidden crime" and that many victims don't recognise themselves as such.
He added: "Some victims are fearful of what might happen to them or their families if they speak out. Others are frightening of the police and government agencies either because of bad experiences in their country of origin or their captors have warned them with false information. Some simply believe that the exploitation is a stepping stone and things will get better.
"In towns and cities modern slavery is most likely to exist in low paid and unregulated industries such as hand car washes, nail bars, restaurants and takeaways. North Yorkshire is also a large rural area and vulnerable people are at risk of exploitation within farming and food processing communities.
"It can even be happening right under your nose in residential houses which are used for cannabis cultivation."
In August this year, North Yorkshire police secured its first modern slavery related conviction following a detailed investigation in Scarborough.
To help recognise the signs of modern slavery people can download the free app 'Unseen'.
Anyone who has concerns about someone who may have been a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery should report this by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.