London: Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed on Thursday it is currently working on 300 live policing operations targeting modern slavery.
“A growing body of evidence resulting from an increase in law enforcement activity points to the numbers of victims being much higher than estimated, and the threat continuing to expand,” said Will Kerr, NCA’s Director of Vulnerabilities.
Kerr added that modern slavery had rightly been made a priority across law enforcement, but it was a hidden crime so the onus was on them to seek it out.
“The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the Britain has been underestimated,” Kerr stated.
He added that the crime affects all types of communities across every part of the Britain and is difficult to spot because often victims don’t even know they are being exploited.
“There will be people living and working where victims come into contact with everyone else’s so-called normal lives. They may see something they feel is not quite right. That might be someone seeming afraid, vulnerable or being controlled, moved around or forced to work against their will,” he noted.
More than a dozen of the highest risk operations targeting organised crime groups are being led by the NCA.
A surge in operational activity focusing on labor and sexual exploitation coordinated by the NCA through May and June, codenamed Operation Aidant, led to 111 arrests in Britain and some 130 people being encountered who may be considered as victims.
Linked operational activity also took place on mainland Europe resulting in around 40 further arrests and the launch of 25 further investigations as a result of intelligence gained.
Additionally, the number of people being referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as potential victims of modern slavery continues to rise, added the NCA.
In response the NCA has started a new campaign focused on sexual and labor exploitation, explaining how the public can help stop it.
“Over the next six months the campaign will highlight the signs of modern slavery which people may encounter in their everyday lives, and encourage them to report it,” said a spokesman for the NCA.
The term “modern slavery” in Britain subsumes the offences of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, including sexual or criminal exploitation.