Criminal exploitation is a form of modern slavery that sees victims being forced to work under the control of highly organised criminals in activities such as forced begging, shoplifting and pickpocketing, cannabis cultivation, drug dealing and financial exploitation.
This type of exploitation can be particularly prevalent in the homeless sector, often amongst young men. Traffickers are known to exploit vulnerable individuals by approaching them in homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens with a view to recruiting them to carry out short term work under the guise of cash in hand payment. In some cases the recruiter may use drugs and/or alcohol as a means of control over the victim.
Traffickers also recruit potential victims from other countries into to the UK with promises of work, money and a better way of life. The reality is that they are forced into working, begging and stealing to fund the criminal gangs.
It is important to not take these crimes at face value, as the individuals may not feel they have any choice. Some victims may speak little or no English and will be unable to ask for help.
Spot The Signs
It is not always obvious if someone is being criminally exploited. Here are some of the questions that you can ask yourself to Spot The Signs:
- Is the person closely guarded and avoids eye contact?
- Do they look withdrawn / scared?
- Have you noticed if the person keeps the money or do they have to give it to someone else?
- Does the person have very few / no possessions?
- Do they speak little or no English?
- Are there any signs of mental health issues / physical injuries?
If you suspect someone is being trafficked then you should report it straight away. This can be done anonymously if you are worried about your protection.