12:22PM, Tuesday 05 December 2017
A report has found that there could be thousands more victims of modern slavery in the Thames Valley area than first thought.
Previous estimates based on criminal justice figures suggested that there were around 533 modern slavery victims in the region last year.
However, the latest evaluation used data from support services and estimated the actual number to be considerably higher — at about 2,500 victims in 2016.
A pilot study commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Anthony Stansfeld, and undertaken by Dr Nadia Wager and Angel Wager from the University of Huddersfield, presents findings of an evaluation of a new service to identify and support victims.
The Thames Valley Independent Trauma Advisory (ITA) pilot project worked with victims of modern slavery and exploitation to assist them to access support, and help them recover from their experience.
The ITA project supported 145 victims during the two-year pilot and found many of the victims experienced more than one form of exploitation.
Many of the perpetrators identified were lone individuals or couples, for example ‘friends’, private landlords and family members, with few cases involving gangs or criminals involved in drug-dealing and violence.
Contrary to the common perception that most victims are trafficked from outside the UK, the new findings show that over 50 per cent of victims referred to the service were UK citizens.
Mr Stansfeld, said: “We know there are likely to be more victims of modern slavery in the Thames Valley and it is important we continue to raise awareness of the issue to both identify victims and effectively tackle this awful crime.
“There are many mistaken perceptions about modern slavery and it is crucial that the public are aware that anyone can be a victim of modern slavery and as the evidence has shown in this report many victims are actually from the UK.
“The perpetrators of this horrific crime often target the most vulnerable in our society, especially those who struggle to or who are unable to speak up for themselves.
“It is important to note that the perpetrators aren’t always organised crime groups and in fact can often be individuals and couples including ‘friends’ of the victim.
“Victims in the Thames Valley can access support by visiting www.victims-first.org.uk or nationally by calling the National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.”
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