West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is organising an event aimed at tackling the growing crime of human trafficking.
Mark Burns-Williamson is to meet charities working with victims as part of an investigation into the scale of the problem in West Yorkshire.
In Bradford, one charity, Hope For Justice, has rescued ten people a week. Victims of people trafficking have been used as cheap labour in car washes, in food processing and furniture-making factories, as domestic servants, made to operate as gardeners at cannabis farms, while women have been forced into sexual exploitation.
Mr Burns-Williamson has now spoken out about the need to raise awareness of human trafficking, and said that an event looking into the scale of the problem across West Yorkshire would be organised in the near future, aimed at educating people about the signs to look out for if they fear someone is being trafficked.
Hope For Justice, whose Bradford-based operations director is former chief superintendent Allan Doherty, has worked with the PCC previously and is expected to be part of the event.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: "Prosecutions for slavery are happening in this country and I have personally pledged to work with fellow Police and Crime Commissioners, and internationally, to tackle issues such as trafficking and forced marriage.
“The role of the National Crime Agency is also key for joined up strategic working to tackle these vile crimes.
“I plan to meet with more charities who work with victims of this awful practice to learn more about what we can do to help.
"I will be looking at the scale of this problem in West Yorkshire and how it can be measured accurately so we can develop ways of tackling it to ensure we are making communities safer and feeling safer.
"An operation took place in Leeds recently seeking to recover potential victims of trafficking and we have said we will use the lessons learned from this operation to deal with this shocking practice.
“The need for legislation and tougher sentences is there to act as a strong deterrent to those causing untold misery to the victims.”
Tackling the issue is a priority in the Police and Crime Plan, and both Mr Burns-Williamson and Mr Doherty have backed draft anti-slavery legislation proposing tougher sentences for human traffickers.