Detectives have engaged with more than 40 women who were discovered working in brothels across London, as part of an operation to crackdown on sexual exploitation and modern slavery offences.
Between Monday, 30 November and Friday, 4 December officers from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation Unit carried out welfare visits at 18 addresses in nine boroughs across London.
Detective Chief Inspector Helen Barling, from the Specialist Crime Command, said: “This operation has been organised to safeguard the most vulnerable, who are often unseen by society. Officers offered advice and support to ensure the women are aware they are not alone and have taken action where necessary.
“We know that in many cases females providing sexual services have travelled from overseas, often fleeing poverty, lured by the promise of a well-paid job in the UK. However, upon arrival the situation couldn’t be more different. Their exploiters take their ID documents and they end up working in brothels - sometimes forced to. They can also end up in debt bondage where they owe money that they will never be able to repay to people they had trusted.
“Physical and mental abuse is common, as are threats of violence against family members at home.
“The public have an important role to play in recognising and reporting modern slavery. If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, report it. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.”
All the addresses visited were identified as brothels. They were in Hounslow, Ealing, Hillingdon, Merton, Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster.
A total of 46 women were spoken to and offered support. Of those, five were identified as potential victims who displayed indicators of modern slavery.
The women spoken to were found to be from the UK, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Romania.
One man, a 36-year-old Hungarian national, was arrested on Thursday, 3 December on suspicion of controlling prostitution. He was taken to a north London police station where he was interviewed and released under investigation pending further enquiries.
All the females spoken to have been offered support from partner agencies, including The Salvation Army.
Intelligence gathered during the week will be developed further and shared with other agencies who are working in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service to combat exploitation of this type.
Often they do not see themselves as potential victims of sexual exploitation and many will have been coerced into this life to make money for an organised crime network.
We know there are victims of modern slavery in every borough across London and you may encounter them every day, possibly without realising. As well as being sexually exploited, victims have been found working in construction, domestic servitude, agriculture, cannabis factories and in places you use yourself, such as car washes, barbers and nail bars.
They are often told the police and authorities in the UK are not to be trusted and with limited English are unable to seek help, even if they want to.
If you suspect that you, or someone you have come into contact with, may be a victim of modern slavery or trafficking and require support, please call The Salvation Army’s 24 hour confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733. This is the best way to get support to anyone you suspect might be a victim
You can also report a suspicion or seek advice through the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can also report to the police online at www.met.police.uk or by calling 101, in case of an emergency dial 999. Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.