Day two – what a day! We’ve heard from British, Swedish, Czech and Slovakian experiences. Reflected on the successes and challenges of international police operations. And focused on the importance of multi-organisational victim support and solid, diverse intelligence.
The amount of successful international police operations was really impressive. A good number involving UK partnerships with police forces in other countries – seeing traffickers put behind bars and victims supported and freed from modern slavery. The precedent set by these cases has encouraged others to start new international investigations which we hope will yield similar results. One of the challenges touched upon was how difficult it can be to exchange information internationally: “We need a better way of sharing information with police forces across borders.” This is one of the main reasons why we hold this conference every year – to build networks and contacts so that delegates no longer need to navigate complex, unfamiliar systems but can instead simply pick up the phone to their colleagues in other forces or countries.
Victims play a central part in all modern slavery investigations – as people to care for and support, but also as people who can provide valuable evidence against their traffickers. Many times today delegates reiterated the grim reality that victims often remain vulnerable while they are seeking justice. Although the police may be able to build successful cases against a few members of a trafficking gang, often these gangs are family-run and the extended family can coerce or otherwise intimidate victim witnesses. This makes international inter-agency partnerships with the Police, Social Services and charities like Medaille Trust all the more important for providing victim care – making sure that victims are supported, safeguarded and protected from the moment they are discovered, throughout the duration of the trial and upon return to their home countries.
The need for good, robust intelligence was also a recurring theme of the day. As one delegate summarized: “Trying to assess the threat of something you don’t have any intelligence for is really hard.” Police delegates from the UK and Sweden outlined how they have intentionally built strong networks in their local communities, augmenting their existing Police data by using information provided by partner organisations to provide a more complete picture of what is really going on. This has led to greater awareness of the different types of exploitation happening and enabled the Police to take action in many more situations.
The scale of the task outlined today often seemed overwhelming. But all delegates subscribe to the Crewe Exploitation Team’s mantra: “It’s better to do something than nothing.”