A ‘SIGNIFICANT number’ of prostitutes are operating in Warrington town centre as part of a hidden market.

Organised criminal activity involves a wide range of crimes including theft, drug dealing, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and modern slavery.

The issue was discussed by the health and wellbeing board at the Town Hall on Thursday.

Martin Cleworth, head of Warrington Police, highlighted the impact it is having in the area.

He confirmed there are a ‘significant number’ of prostitutes offering services in the town centre.

But he says the force is trying to ‘build up trust’ and work with victims to identify and tackle organised crime.

Warrington Guardian:

Martin Cleworth, head of Warrington Police

He also highlighted the ‘disconnect’ between partners but said progress is being made.

“I think it’s probably fair to say over the last six months we, policing wise, have turned a bit of a stone over in the town,” said Mr Cleworth.

“It is not facing a unique problem but Warrington is particularly well placed for organised crime to exploit people.

“What we are seeing is increased exploitation of children through the drugs market, county lines, and increased exploitation and trafficking of adults into the town, particularly for labour markets and also for the sex industry.”

He said there is a ‘hidden market’ of migrants being moved around ‘fairly rapidly’ and brought into the borough.

Shortly after, Cllr Rebecca Knowles (LAB – Chapelford and Old Hall), cabinet member for statutory health and adult social care, highlighted the town’s transport network and links.

She added: “I think, given the context of some of the challenges that are being faced, it’s an area that we must make sure we carry on giving priority to and taking as seriously as we have done.”