Cheshire police has today (Tuesday, March 8) targeted properties in in the Chester area in an operation aimed at protecting vulnerable people who they believe may be being exploited.
A 34-year-old Lithuanian man was arrested in Ermine Road, Hoole in the early hours of this morning. Three men aged in their early 20s and mid 30s and a woman in her 20s were found to be living at an address in Ermine Road, all of whom are believed to be victims of labour exploitation and have now been taken to a place of safety.
Officers also visited a Lithuanian man living Weybourne Close, who is thought to be living in a caravan at the back of the property and being controlled by the owner. A 69-year-old man was arrested and a 55-year-old Lithuanian man believed to be a victim of slavery has been taken to a place of safety.
The operation was a result of an investigation into the exploitation of Eastern Europeans in the Chester area. It is believed that the victims – thought to be Lithuanian – have no contract of employment, are being paid way below the minimum wage and have been living in multiple occupancy houses in cramped conditions.
Intelligence suggests that they rely heavily on their employer for work, transport and accommodation with little or no money being paid for their work.
Detective Superintendent Serena Kennedy, head of the Public Protection Directorate at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “This operation highlights the fact that modern day slavery is happening here and now, and in Cheshire. Today we have removed five people from their atrocious situation and arrested two of their exploiters.
“People are being tricked by organised crime groups into coming to the UK with a promise of a good job and a better like. Instead, they are forced to live in terrible conditions and working for little or no money. Very often they have very little opportunity to move freely, they are completely controlled by their abusers and therefore it is very difficult for them to get help.
“This is a hidden crime and can happen anywhere, in all sections of the community and could be happening on a street where you live. It is everyone’s responsibility to look out for potential victims and if you are concerned, or have any suspicions at all then you need to speak out.”
The operation is being supported by a number of organisations, including local authorities, adult safeguarding teams, Turning Point, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Cheshire Anti-Slavery Network, Europol and the National Crime Agency. They will ensure the needs of these victims are dealt with and given access to support services that will help them rebuild their lives and confidence in themselves.
Police & Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer said: “Since I was elected in 2012, my focus has always been to put victims at the heart of everything we do and my Police & Crime Plan sets out that tackling modern day slavery is a key priority in the protection of the vulnerable. This action reinforces that.
“It is shocking to even think that slavery takes place in these modern times, let alone so close to home in Cheshire. I applaud the Constabulary for its action this morning and thank all the partners who supported the operation. I am reassured that it is part of an ongoing focus to eradicate this abhorrent crime.”
Cheshire police are determined to make sure people can live and work in Cheshire safely. We are working hard to find victims of modern slavery and will continue to target individuals and businesses who are taking advantage of this labour.
If you have any suspicions , or think that something isn’t quite right, then call police on 101 or alternatively Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.