Fight against modern slavery crimes continues as frontline officers trained in improving investigation response (13 Feb 2018)

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More than 150 frontline officers from across Yorkshire and the Humber came together for training aimed at improving the police response to modern slavery. Up to 175 people attended the Unlocking Slavery event last month (JAN) at the Carr Gate training complex in Wakefield that was funded by the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme.

The Programme is funded through the Home Office's national police transformation fund and it was set up improve the way in which the police tackle modern slavery.

Officers from West Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police came together to gain a better understanding of the steps to take once a possible case of modern slavery has been identified.

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, who helped establish a dedicated police Human Trafficking Team in West Yorkshire and has worked with partners to establish the West Yorkshire Anti- Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network as well as the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network (NATMSN) for all Police and Crime Commissioners and which he chairs, spoke at the event.

He said: "These events provide an opportunity to network and share knowledge on tackling modern slavery and ensure we are doing all we can collectively to tackle this vile crime and ensure perpetrators are caught and punished while victims are supported.

"These roadshows are focused on frontline responders and investigating officers who dealing with or managing the early stages of an investigation connected to modern slavery and/or human trafficking investigations

"It builds on learning about best practice in relation to investigation management and victim engagement, as well as information and support from the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, to ensure we understand the extent and nature of this threat and continue to resource police and our partners sufficiently."

Speakers at the event included Shaun Sawyer, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, and the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) lead for modern slavery, Alison Ellis, the founder of charity Invisible Traffick, West Yorkshire officers including DCI Warren Stevenson, of West Yorkshire Police, who was instrumental in setting up and overall leadership of the West Yorkshire Police Human Trafficking team since 2015, and officers from North and South Yorkshire and Humberside.

Mr Sawyer said: "The Programme brings together experts from 20 different national and international organisations, including Europol. It helps bridge the gap between forces and other agencies and facilitates information sharing on local, national and international levels. For the first time we have an overview of operational activity in all 43 police forces. This means that we can identify and promote good practice and help forces to learn from each other.

"Identifying and investigating modern slavery is rarely clear cut. Victims often do not identify themselves as such and are sometimes unable to describe what happened to them.

"Their account is likely to be painstakingly pieced together over weeks and months of police work during which other challenges must be overcome to safeguard and support the victim. The Programme is delivering victim focussed training on offer to all forces. The training is having a positive impact and equipping police with the specialist knowledge and skills they need."

Detective Inspector Helen Steele of West Yorkshire Police, said: "We have made significant strides in understanding and taking action to combat the scourge of modern slavery in West Yorkshire and were very pleased to take part in the recent training event.

"Sharing best practice with colleagues from other forces and partner agencies is very important for all agencies as it helps us judge our own procedures and gain experience from scenarios colleagues have faced in other parts of the region.

"We continue to urge anyone who thinks they have witnessed instances of human trafficking or exploitation in their communities to the police via 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019