Police have begun a series of swoops on businesses and homes across Lancashire looking for potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Visits to premises like nail bars, car washes, massage parlours and homes suspected of being run as brothels, are part of a week-long crackdown by the county constabulary.
And today Lancashire was hosting its first-ever conference for frontline workers to coincide with National Anti-Slavery Day.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw, who was due to open the conference at the Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel at Clayton-le-Moors, said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are a growing problem and these crimes can have devastating impacts on the lives of victims.
“We are holding this conference to raise awareness of this issue and hopefully get more victims out of harm’s way.”
The week of action follows a high profile case in Preston where three men were jailed in March for a total of 53 years for trafficking and sexually exploiting two 18-year-old girls.
The young women were brought over from Romania and forced to work in a brothel at a house in Longworth Street in the city. Two of the men were sent down for 20 years and the third 13 years.
Since January 158 incidents and intelligence reports have been received by Lancashire Police in relation to modern slavery - mostly for sexual exploitation. Since April nine people have been arrested.
“We are committed to rooting out those indviduals who choose to exploit others,” said DCI Sion Hall, one of Lancashire Police’s leads on modern slavery. “We have dedicated officers working hard to remove this type of threat from our communities.”