Before I write this final article in a series about exploiting vulnerable people, I would first like to congratulate `Everest Times` on reaching a milestone 10th anniversary.
The publication has been invaluable for the community in reporting news, but also providing an education and awareness on so many topics, which has benefitted the whole community.
For the Hampshire Police, it has allowed communication on a weekly basis with the Nepali community and I am extremely grateful for the generosity afforded to us.
I missed last week`s article and the anniversary event last Friday due to the work commitments which we are experiencing now, which has been most unfortunate.
The current demand for resources has reached a very high level following some major incidents, therefore this has led to officers working many hours and being kept on duty to meet the demands placed on us.
I mention this to ask for patience when some non-urgent reports are made because there is a longer delay than usual and hopefully things will settle down a bit soon.
Back to the theme of the article – the previous two articles mentioned the types of exploitation and the impact on the community and how people can help by looking out for their neighbours or reporting any suspicions. This article is about some of the specialist units which the police have to look more deeply into those people at risk and the specialist teams who investigate the organised crime behind exploitation.
I mentioned people who frequently go missing, or those who don`t attend school, who raise the concern that they might be exploited.
There is a team of people who manage these people. They will monitor the enquiries being made to find someone, but they will also look deeper into people who go missing frequently, because this is an indicator that these people may be at risk from exploition.
If there is information about exploitation, such as a young person being used to run drugs, then a pro-active approach will be made to engage with that person and help them. Quite often these people will come from troubled homes and they will need the support of social services and education to provide them with a safe and stable home and ensure they receive an education, which are basic rights of all young people. These are also needed to enable professionals to work effectively in helping them, because without these stable platforms in their lives, it is difficult to achieve any success.
The process in achieving this for them is quite difficult because a young person has seen certain advantages to their life, such as independence, association with older people which they find exciting, and money. Therefore, a dedicated team are required to work with these individuals and partner agencies, because only a concentrated effort will bring about any change.
There are officers who investigate exploitation exclusively too who will manage cases (people) who are at risk. Again, the identification of people at risk from exploitation are those where there is information about, which is often provided by a community itself, or local community officers who have become aware of them and will provide on-going information.
The lower risk one`s are assisted by the police community teams, but those who are much higher risk will be passed on to a dedicated team, who again will need to concentrate on them in a more dedicated way, such as those involved in organised crime.
There are also officers who work in the Serious and Organised Crime Unit. These officers will work at disrupting and arresting people involved in organised crime.
Crime groups operate professionally, and they are good at what they do. It is these criminals who will not only exploit vulnerable people, but they are the one`s who will inflict the most damage in communities too, such as violence and crime associated with drugs, such as theft or burglary.
We have all read about modern day slavery in the press where people are kept against their will and forced into crime, or simply working for someone, for little or no payment.
We have also read about migrants who are promised a better life abroad, where large sums of money are taken from them as payment to travel illegally and when they arrive in another country, including the UK, they are picked up by the criminal network and forced to work in the sex or drug trade.
For these people, their life is extremely difficult; they are fleeing a life of poverty and / or violence, often in war torn countries and desperate to escape. Once in a foreign country as an illegal immigrant, they feel they cannot go to the authorities for help, for fear of being sent back to their previous life. Once in a new country, they will not have their identity papers, which are often taken from them, so they are forced to stay with the criminal groups as their only way of survival – or at least this is how they will see it.
For genuine cases, the reality is that they would be assisted by the authorities, provided they are genuine migrants who fear persecution if they were to return to their home country, however, this is also quite a hard thing for the authorities to prove too, because they are dealing with people who cannot even prove who they are.
All types of exploitation are serious, but this last group is probably the most vulnerable and the criminals who exploit them have no compassion at all and will use them for their own gains, where the financial rewards are huge.
There is so much demand on resources to deal with exploitation and to make a positive impact on it and simply not the funding to match, but hopefully the joint efforts of a community and those professionals who work hard to help those at risk and prosecute criminals who exploit them, will make some difference to the lives of a number of them as well as maintain the order within communities too.