A NEW taskforce has been set up in a bid to tackle modern day slavery in Warrington.

Cheshire Police’s new Hidden Harm Team will be based at Warrington Police Station and aims to ‘identify, safeguard and support victims of forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation and take robust action against offenders’.

The force is working with Warrington Borough Council, recruitment agencies, employers and private landlords in order to put a stop to exploitation.

Detective inspector Julie Jackson will lead the team, also consisting of detective sergeant Darren Wright and detective constables Steve Deehan and Danielle Fildes.

She said: “It is a sad fact of life that modern slavery is happening today in our communities, often hidden away behind closed doors.

“In fact, the number of victims is growing all the time – internationally, nationally and locally – and I am pleased that the growing problem has been highlighted on terrestrial TV recently via Panorama - The Hunt for Britain’s Slave Gangs and Coronation Street’s nail bar storyline.

“Modern slavery destroys lives – it stems from serious and organised crime and targets some of the most vulnerable people in our society who are coerced into a range of exploitation, including trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude.

“Many are tricked into coming to the UK with a promise of a good job and a better life.

“Instead they are made to live a life of abuse, working in terrible conditions with very little reward.

“These offences represent a grave abuse of human rights and basic dignity, and the new Warrington Hidden Harm Team has been formed to step up efforts to eradicate modern slavery in the town and bring to justice those who so cruelly exploit vulnerable people.”

The team has warned residents to be on the lookout for key signs that may indicate that someone is a victim of modern day slavery – including their appearance, poor living conditions, unusual travel times, having few possessions and being reluctant to seek help.

DS Wright added: “Slavery is a hidden crime that sees victims suffer in silence, often feeling alone and terrified and not knowing how to escape the situation.

“Many have come from broken families, leaving them less protected from attachments to those who wish them harm.

“Some have been unable to find work, leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation.

“Others are addicts, some struggle with unmanageable debt and many have never experienced decent education.

“One of the biggest challenges the police face in fighting modern slavery is that many victims do not realise they are victims, and many others fear revealing their status or experiences to state authorities and mistrust individuals in authority.

“On initial contact, victims may appear unwilling to co-operate, especially if they are in the presence of their traffickers or around other victims.

“In addition to feelings of fear and intimidation, they may feel dependent on their traffickers.

“Our role at the new Warrington Hidden Harm Team is to work with our partners to find these victims, ensure that they receive all the physical and psychological help and support they need and do everything we can in a bid to bring their traffickers to justice.

“But modern slavery and human trafficking are not matters we can address on our own – protecting people from slavery and exploitation is everybody’s responsibility.”