Suspected sex slaves rescued from 'pop-up brothels' in Sheffield
Police today raided a string of suspected 'pop-up brothels' in Sheffield, rescuing women who are believed to have been forced into prostitution.
Officers targeted a number of addresses in the city centre and London Road area this morning, in an operation carried out to coincide with national Anti-Slavery Day.
South Yorkshire Police said the vulnerable women found at the properties were taken to a safe place, where they are being provided with help and support.
Detective Sergeant Nikki Leach, from the force's anti-slavery unit, said the raids were the culmination of months spent gathering intelligence about modern-day slavery in the city.
"Sexual exploitation through trafficking is one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery we see here in South Yorkshire," she said.
"As a unit, our aim is to gather as much intelligence as we can in relation to modern slavery so that we can identify any possible victims and safeguard them as quickly as possible.
"Our priority during today's activity was to identify and speak to any vulnerable women at these properties, who may have been trafficked into the country on false promises, and who are now being forced to work in the sex industry.
"The women found at properties today were then taken to a safe place, where staff from agencies including the Red Cross, City Hearts and Ashiana were there to speak to them and provide the relevant help and support."
Police said pop-up brothels are often set up in short-term rented houses or flats.
After identifying any victims at the properties raided today, they said officers would turn their attention to finding any offenders and looking at whether to issue any closure orders should be issued, prohibiting the use of those addresses.
"These pop-up brothels may operate for anything from a few weeks to six months or more, with vulnerable women often being promised work and a good income before arriving in England," said DS Leach.
"Often, we find that their passports are taken off them and they’re soon working in the sex industry from a flat or a house, with little to no control over their own life.
"For some, they may be working there by choice but if they are, it’s because they feel they don’t have another choice.
"It's our job, along with the vital help of the charities and organisations we work incredibly closely with, to show them that they do have a choice and together we can help them to get out of this situation and rebuild their lives."
The anti-slavery unit are seeking to raise awareness of modern-day slavery and inform members of the public how they can help prevent the despicable practice.
Police said they had already received 'numerous' pieces of intelligence about pop-up brothels in Sheffield, enabling them to remove vulnerable young women and identify anyone responsible for exploiting them.
They said tell-tale signs of a pop-up brothel include a large number of women living at a property with very few furnishings, or many men coming and going at all times of the day and night.
The team has also visited a number of other premises this week, including a car wash in Hillsborough, as part of a crackdown on the labour exploitation which often takes place in car washes and nail bars.
If you have any concerns, call police on 101, or dial 999 in an emergency.
You can also call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.
For more information about modern slavery, visit southyorks.police.uk/modernslavery.