A new team dedicated to combating the ‘vile crime’ of human trafficking was unveiled in Wakefield yesterday.
The Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) will work both locally and nationally to target organised crime lords seeking to traffic people into West Yorkshire.
It has been formed as part of a range of initiatives to fight trafficking, which has been identified as a key issue by West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark-Burns Williamson.
The new unit will be led by a dedicated detective inspector and staffed by specialist detectives and investigators.
It is believed to be only the third of its kind in the country and has been set up as part of West Yorkshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Det Chief Insp Warren Stevenson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Human trafficking is a vile crime and the resources we are dedicating to this new unit makes clear how determined we are to tackle it and bring those responsible to justice.
“Last year the number of human trafficking victims referred by West Yorkshire Police to the national referral mechanism doubled from 2013 from 42 to 84, showing the scale of the problem, but also demonstrating that victims are more willing to come to us.”
The unit’s work will be complemented by the start-up of a West Yorkshire Anti Trafficking Network (WYATN) with charity Hope For Justice, which will train almost 3,500 police staff, as well as staff from partner agencies about how to spot the signs of trafficking and tackle it.
The training, which will be delivered by Hope for Justice in partnership with West Yorkshire Police, is being funded by cash secured by Mr Burns-Williamson from the Home Office.
The crime commissioner said: “Those being helped by the unit will then be supported by the 3,500 people being trained by the WYATN to put their lives back together and it means victims are subsequently more confident in coming forward to the police.
“Training with front line staff around human trafficking has created an increased understanding of the signs of this crime and its implications, but there is more we need to do and this dedicated response unit is part of that, as it is targeting those perpetrators ruining people’s lives with this awful crime.”