Police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Keane is raising awareness of the effects modern slavery and human trafficking has on local communities following a rise in cases in Cheshire.
It’s as reports of modern day slavery made to Cheshire Police have more than doubled over the last two years. Between June 2019 and June 2020, 63 cases were reported compared to 28 cases between June 2017 and June 2018.
Ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on 18 October, the Commissioner has funded an exhibition at Chester Cathedral which highlights the devastating effects of human trafficking and modern slavery on our communities.
The Commissioner is encouraging Cheshire residents to attend the free exhibition which runs until Thursday 22 October.
He is also asking local people to look out for common signs of the crime in our communities and to report any suspicions to Cheshire Police.
PCC David Keane’s plea for action comes after Cheshire Police secured one of its first successful convictions for human trafficking and modern day slavery offences earlier this year.
31-year-old Robertas Repsas and 34-year-old Rita Jablonskaite from Warrington were handed an almost four year collective jail term for trafficking two victims from their neighbouring Lithuania and forcing them to live in cramped conditions in their home as they made them carry-out chores.
David said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are horrific crimes that have no place in the 21st century but are still a problem in Cheshire.
“I am working with local charities including the Medaille Trust to fund projects which support victims of modern day slavery across the county and I’ve been working with the charity as part of my review of victim services to ensure modern day slavery survivours are offered appropriate support to allow them to recover from their ordeal. As part of my role to hold the chief constable to account, I will continue to ensure that tackling modern day slavery and human trafficking is a priority for Cheshire Constabulary.
“I’m also pleased to be supporting Chester Cathedral in their efforts to raise awareness of the issue and I would encourage people to go and visit the exhibition at the Cathedral so they are aware of the devastating effects modern day slavery can have on our communities.
“Local people have a key role to play in spotting the signs of slavery and trafficking and reporting any suspicions and we need you to report any suspicions, no matter how small, to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or to Cheshire Police.”
Canon Jane Brooke from Chester Cathedral added: “Chester Cathedral is very grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner for supporting the funding of the transport and the payment of the artist Sara Shamma for the exhibition on Modern Slavery in order to raise awareness of the issue.”
Here are some of the common signs that may indicate that someone could be a victim:
· Appearance: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt or appear withdrawn.
· Isolation: Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control/influence of others, rarely interact with people or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
· Poor living conditions: Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and may be working at the same address.
· Few or no personal effects: Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and wear the same clothes day in, day out. The clothes they wear may not be suitable for their work.
· Unusual travel times: They may be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis, either very early in the morning or late at night.
· Reluctant to seek help: Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help and fear of deportation.
The Sara Shamma: Modern Slavery exhibition runs at Chester Cathedral until Thursday 22 October 2020.