Human trafficking and modern slavery will be in the spotlight as police today launch a week of action to clamp down on the problem.
The number of arrests for related offences has risen steadily in recent years and last year alone 32 cases were referred to police.
As part of the scheme, officers will be visiting a range of businesses –including takeaways, car washes and massage parlours – that employ large numbers of foreign workers to raise awareness.
Det Supt Sue Cawley, of Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking can cross over into various other areas of crime and in many cases organised crime groups are responsible for the movement of people into and around the UK.
“It is a complex area of policing and identifying it can be difficult, but we are already making progress in Lancashire.”
Since 2010, there have been 25 arrests in Lancashire for trafficking and slavery offences, two of them in the force’s west division.
Most of those arrested were male and included an even mix of UK, Pakistani and Eastern European nationalities.
The force said slavery and trafficking relates to the movement of someone from one place to another and into conditions of exploitation, using deception, coercion or abuse.
Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, said: “Modern slavery is a despicable crime that has no place in Lancashire.”
Det Supt Cawley added: “Although figures would suggest there isn’t a huge problem in our county, we know it is happening.
“Sometimes, victims are unaware they are victims or are in fear of those controlling them. I would urge anyone who feels they may be a victim or anyone who suspects that someone could be a victim of slavery or trafficking to contact us on 101.”