Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.  
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UK Anti-Slavery Day: Raising Awareness in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire’s Modern Slavery Partnership joined organisations across the country for UK Anti-Slavery Day on 18 October to help raise awareness of modern slavery.  
 
Since 2017 the number of modern slavery offences has been steadily increasing in the county from 10 in 2017, to 55 in 2018/19 however, not all of these were offences committed within the county.
 
It has proven difficult to secure convictions against those involved in trafficking and exploitation, with just five arrests in 2018/19, compared with none in 2017/18. Victims are often identified as at risk of exploitation, but were not willing to engage with investigations, although many of them were removed from harm as a result of action taken by the partnership.  
 
Modern slavery can take many forms, including the coercion of people into forced labour, sex, criminality and servitude. It is a global problem that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity.
 
The aim of the UK Anti-Slavery campaign is to alert local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to the signs of modern slavery and encourage them to report any concerns they might have. Possible signs listed on the partnership website: www.stopexploitationherts.org.uk.
 
Detective Chief Inspector Tracy Pemberton, from the Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Command, said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking is a growing problem in the UK and we know that there are a large number of offences that go unreported. Often victims are not able to come forward themselves or are reluctant or even afraid to engage with the authorities. Therefore it is important that the public are aware of this problem and know how to spot the signs.
 
“Victims to this crime can be forced to work for little or no money, be beaten, sexually exploited and have their lives controlled by others. However, they may still be living or working in plain sight of the public. Learn how to spot the signs and report any concerns you may have, and you could help free someone from exploitation and abuse.”
 
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, David Lloyd, who has pledged his support to the campaign said: “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.
 
“We now have a countywide Modern Slavery strategy with a coordinated action plan to identify and reduce all forms of modern slavery and human trafficking by increasing awareness, better coordinating of operational activity, better sharing of information and ultimately providing a better service for victims.”
 
Recently appointed Chairperson of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership, Jo Fisher, Operations Director for Services for Young People at Hertfordshire 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. Anti-Slavery Day is about raising awareness of this issue amongst the public and local organisations. Last month, we delivered training to local authority housing leads to help them identify and support potential victims. 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."
 
Between 9 December and 13 December, the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership will be running a campaign to highlight the link between homelessness and modern slavery.
 
Anyone with concerns about exploitation should call Hertfordshire Constabulary’s non-emergency number police 101 (ask for the modern slavery unit) or the national charity-run 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999.
 
Beacon supports victims locally and has a hotline: 03000 11 55 55 which is open from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.
 
Follow the partnership on Twitter @HertsMSP or visit the website: www.stopexploitationherts.org.uk for more information and advice to accessing support.