More than 40 people were made safe by officers as part of an operation to help raise awareness of modern slavery in Gwent and across the UK.
Forty-four people from Gwent were made safe as part of a national operation to combat modern slavery and help those at risk of exploitation.
Operation Aident, led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), focused on hand car washes, indicating that these offences can often take place in plain sight.
The modern slavery team at Gwent Police visited 16 car washes across its force area during the operation, with further visits still planned to raise awareness of this crime type.
PC Stephen Jones, of the modern slavery team, said:
“Our modern slavery team will continue to work tirelessly to identify and provide safeguarding opportunities to vulnerable people who fall victim to the various forms of exploitation perpetuated by those who treat other humans as a cheap commodity.
“We urge the public to make themselves aware of the signs and indicators of exploitation that will be evident within every community.
“Exploitation really can be hidden in plain sight. Stop and think: if it appears to you that someone needs help, please report your concerns to us via one of our channels.
“Your concern and report could lead to a lifesaving intervention.”
Modern slavery takes many different forms, from forced labour and sexual exploitation, and national operations like Aident are designed to show that it can happen anywhere.
Working together with partners, Gwent’s Police’s modern slavery team will make safeguarding visits to support and help those at risk of exploitation. The team will also enforce to target criminals who exploit vulnerable people.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, is the all-Wales PCC lead for modern day slavery; he said:
“Slavery is a despicable crime that exploits some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“The chances are that you will encounter victims without realising it, perhaps at a hand car wash or nail bar.
“These victims often come to the UK with the promise of well-paid work and a better quality of life but are forced to work for little or no money, and to live in appalling conditions.
“Then there are those that are trafficked into the country to work for drug gangs, those forced into sex work, or those who have problems with substance misuse, or mental health, that are taken advantage of for others gain.
“We’re leading the way here in Wales when it comes to tackling this problem, taking a joined-up approach between the Welsh Government, four Welsh police forces and other partners.
“However, the responsibility for tackling slavery does not lie solely with policing.
“If you suspect slavery is happening, suspect something is not right, or have concerns about someone, report it as soon as you can.”
If you have concerns or information about modern slavery or human trafficking, call 101 or send a direct message to Gwent Police on social media.