• 80+ vehicles stopped in joint modern slavery operation

  • Three potential victims of slavery or trafficking identified

  • Four arrested for theft of motor vehicle, drug driving or other offences.

More than 80 vehicles were stopped on Saturday (April 28) in an operation targeting human trafficking and modern slavery.

The operation, led by police in Hertfordshire and London, targeted vehicles travelling across the border between the two areas. The vehicles were stopped throughout the day with a range of checks were performed on the occupants for potential involvement in trafficking, slavery or County Lines*. Immigration and vehicle safety checks were also performed as part of the operation at London Gateway Services on the M1 motorway.

Anyone identified as a potential victim of trafficking, slavery or any other kind of exploitation was dealt with at a site away from the policing operation. Welfare checks were conducted with them and information about their rights given.

The joint Hertfordshire Constabulary and Metropolitan Police Service operation involved more than 100 police and other law enforcement officers from partner agencies. Some 70 police officers from both areas were from the Special Constabulary – volunteer police officers who have the same powers as regular police.

Police officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit and City of London Police also supported the operation. Hertfordshire Constabulary’s involvement was led by it specialist modern slavery and human trafficking unit, Operation Tropic.

Also in attendance were the Home Office Immigration Service, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Red Cross, Hertfordshire Trading Standards, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Hertsmere Borough Council and the Environment Agency.

The six-hour operation:

  • 83 vehicles were stopped by police
  • 67 people were spoken to about modern slavery and human trafficking
  • Three potential victims of modern slavery or trafficking identified and supported by the Red Cross. They will be dealt with under the National Referral Mechanism.
  • 4 people arrested on suspicion of a range of offences including theft, theft of a motor vehicle, drug possession and driving while disqualified. Possession of a knife and drug driving.
  • One person was given a caution for cannabis possession.
  • One suspected stolen vehicle was recovered.
  • Five uninsured vehicles were taken off the road and seized as well as others with mechanical defects.
  • Other driving offences such as speeding and not having an MOT were also dealt with.

Special Chief Inspector Andrew Lobel said: “Trafficked people or other victims of exploitation are often moved around by road. The aim of the operation is to disrupt that activity, making the Hertfordshire/London border a hostile area the criminals or gangs that choose to exploit people.

“Members of the public using the services were also engaged on the subject trafficking and modern slavery. It is vital that the public are aware of how to spot the signs that someone might be being exploited or controlled by others for commercial gain.”

Liam Vernon from the NCA’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit said: “Modern slavery is a high priority for UK law enforcement, and operations like this contribute greatly to our improving knowledge and intelligence picture. This is a crime which seeks out the most vulnerable men, women and children and abuses them for criminal profit. It affects every community across the UK.

“Anyone with suspicions about modern slavery can call the police on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.”

Part of today’s activity was targeting exploitation via county lines drug dealing, in which criminal networks from urban centres expand their activities into smaller towns and rural areas using violence and exploitation. County lines is a national law enforcement priority and the NCA is working with police to take action against CL offenders, and to protect victims.

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, said: “Tackling modern slavery requires a co-ordinated and united approach and this operation shows how seriously this crime is being taken in Hertfordshire. I’m particularly pleased to see our Special Constables playing such an important role in this operation.

“When the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership was set up last year (May 2017), the objective was to increase partnership working to set a strategy which had real impact. This is clearly evidence of that.”

The public can help by looking out for people who appear to be controlled by others, information is available online at www.herts.police.uk/modernslavery.

Police check driver and vehicle on M1

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