Huge surge in number of modern slavery victims being found in South Yorkshire
The true scale of modern slavery in South Yorkshire is beginning to emerge, following a huge rise in the number of victims discovered.
Police in South Yorkshire uncovered 75 cases of human trafficking last year, a five-fold increase on the 14 recorded during 2015.
The number of suspected slavery victims referred for support after being found in the region also shot up during the same period, from eight to 44.
Modern slavery is where people are illegally moved and exploited for sex, crime or slave labour.
South Yorkshire Police last year set up a modern slavery team to crack down on the crime, which it believed was being drastically under-reported.
Superintendent Bob Chapman, who runs that squad, told how he and his officers were working hard to protect victims of what he described as a 'despicable' crime.
"Exploitation can take many forms, from sexual and domestic, to financial gain, and people who are trafficked into the country, or who are victims of modern slavery, often suffer violent abuse and control at the hands of their perpetrators," he said.
"The Anti-Slavery Team was set up to investigate and gather information about human trafficking and modern slavery.
"The team of dedicated officers work with a wide range of agencies to disrupt the activities of those involved in crimes such as trafficking people into the country and holding people in servitude as domestic slaves.
"We also work closely with charities and women’s groups to raise awareness and support victims affected by these issues.
"This is still very much a hidden issue in South Yorkshire, which slowly the team are uncovering in order to protect these vulnerable victims, which is our absolute priority...
"We will continue to investigate and gather information about modern slavery and human trafficking, in addition to working alongside our partner agencies, to protect vulnerable people and bring the offenders to justice for these despicable crimes."
Trafficking victims found by police are entered into what is known as the National Referral Mechanism for safeguarding. Those being exploited include men and women, as well as both adults and children.