18 suspected sex workers from across Swindon have been supported by Wiltshire Police as part of Operation Aidant.
This is a national operation aimed at tackling modern slavery and human trafficking.
Officers, supported by the Medaille Trust (a charity which works to combat modern slavery), visited eight properties in the town during three weeks of action where it was suspected that sex workers were operating from.
The aim was to proactively address the safety and concerns of adults who are sex working and being exploited to do so often by those who force adults and sometimes children in to modern slavery. Those same people are often victims of human trafficking too. Officers were keen to learn how exploited sex workers are recruited by criminal groups in order to tackle this organised criminal activity.
Detective Inspector Eirin Martin said: “Wiltshire Police is committed to protecting and safeguarding vulnerable individuals within our community.
“The Sentinel Team has been working with the Medaille trust, which is an organisation that provides refuge and welfare to individuals exposed to modern slavery and human trafficking, and other partners in Swindon and Wiltshire.
“Together, we’ve been visiting addresses across Swindon to protect and safeguard individuals that are being exposed to sexual exploitation.
“Sex workers are hidden within our community, and we want to provide them with support and help to get the services they need to stop exploitation happening within our community.
“You can help us by being our eyes and ears and report information that doesn’t feel right or where you feel exploitation is happening, and together we can stop exploitation.”
Protecting the vulnerable
Wiltshire PCC Philip Wilkinson said: “The exploitation of vulnerable people in our communities must stop and co-ordinated intensification operations, like Aidant, are vital to ensure we are doing all we can to protect those often hidden in plain sight. I would urge anyone who suspects modern slavery or human trafficking is happening to report the information to police so an intelligence-rich picture can be formed to inform future operations.
“Sex workers are often dehumanised by their exploiters, have their independence stripped and made to feel worthless. By taking this approach, and working with the Medaille Trust, Wiltshire Police can build an all-important connection with the victim and help them access the support services they need to help them out of exploitation.
“One of the priorities in my police and crime plan is to improve the experience of victims and deliver justice but the reality is the police cannot tackle this alone.
"This is where the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) commissioned services play a role in helping victims navigate the criminal justice system, in addition to close working with local authorities and partners like the Medaille Trust.”
Working in partnership to help
Marcus Dawson, Director of Police and Justice Partnerships at the Medaille Trust said: "We are grateful to Wiltshire Police for the opportunity to work alongside them in partnership.
"Pursuing the traffickers and seeking justice for survivors can only be done by working together and adopting a multi agency approach to safeguarding the most vulnerable. Often survivors struggle to engage with law enforcement. The Medaille Trust are there to support police across the UK, protecting survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. We look forward to working alongside Wiltshire Police again in the near future."
• If you suspect modern slavery or human trafficking taking place in your area, please report any suspicious incidents via 101 or our website. • You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. • There is more advice on sex worker safety here: Sex worker safety | Wiltshire Police