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Victims safeguarded and six arrests after operation targeting Luton sex industry

19 Jun 2020

Six women have been safeguarded and six people arrested after a multi-agency operation to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Three addresses in Luton either suspected of housing brothels or being linked to a wider organised crime network behind them were subject to warrants by police yesterday afternoon (Thursday).

All of the women, who were from Romania, have been offered safeguarding support through the national referral mechanism for victims of modern slavery. 

They were taken to a reception centre in the county and are continuing to work with specialist support services.

Specialist support workers from local charity Azalea, Luton Council public health’s vulnerable women’s group and sexual health services joined us on the operation, with more than 30 professionals involved in total.

Three men from Luton, one man from Kent and two women from Luton were arrested on suspicion of keeping a brothel.

All six remain in police custody while enquiries continue.

Inspector Jim Goldsmith, who led the operation, said: “Back in December we carried out 15 warrants tackling human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and we continue to do all we can alongside our partners to protect these vulnerable women.

“It can take up to 10 encounters with the police or with an agency before victims feel confident and safe enough to engage with us and reach out for support, so this is why it is so important to continue these operations.

“Organised criminal networks will lie to, bully and exploit their victims in the sex trade, all in the name of making money through sexual services.

“Thousands of women in the UK sex industry are trafficked into the country under false pretences by these crime gangs. Buyers should be fully aware of the ruthless and exploitative nature of this industry.”

Ruth Robb, from Azalea, added: “These sort of multi-agency operations are incredibly important in terms of tackling the root causes of this industry.

“These women are often extremely vulnerable and traumatised by their experiences, so will need that intensive support.

“Huge credit should go to Bedfordshire Police for tackling the gangs behind these women’s exploitation, as well as involving agencies who can give victims the help they need.”

Superintendent David Cestaro, who leads on partnership work by the police tackling organised crime, said: “Serious and organised crime so often takes the form of exploiting the vulnerable amongst us.

“I am determined that we work solidly, with purpose, with our partners to identify such cases, protect the victims and bring offenders to justice.

“This is an example of what can be achieved when statutory and voluntary partners come together to tackle issues uncovered by intelligence and community concerns.”

If you have information about a suspected brothel, please report it to us on 101 or via our website.

You can also report information anonymously via the Modern Slavery Helpline, on 08000 121 700.

Azalea is a local charity working with the victims of human trafficking. For advice or to report any concerns contact them on 01582 227303.

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