A major operation aimed at tackling sexual exploitation has been hailed as a success.
Between September 24 and September 27, Lancashire Police took part in Operation Aidant, a joint campaign between law enforcement agencies to understand the threat modern slavery and human trafficking poses.
The aim of the operation was to target and disrupt ‘pop-up brothels’ linked to adult websites in Lancashire.
Eleven women were spoken to by officers and given advice about what to do if they feel they are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Det Sgt Abi Finch-Hall, of Lancashire Police’s Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery team, said: “Some adult sex websites are used by sex workers to advertise their services online. The highest proportion of advertisements relates to women.
“Often rented properties or hotel rooms are used on a short term basis as a place to sell sex, hence the term ‘pop-up brothel’. Some people who advertise in this way may be victims of sexual exploitation, a form of modern slavery, in which they are controlled by their exploiter and forced to in to prostitution with no freedom of choice.
“We visited addresses in Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Accrington and Blackpool and spoke with a number of women.
“While none of the women disclosed they were victims, with the help of local charities and partner agencies advice was provided to the women encountered which ensured they were aware of the rights they have.”
Officers visited addresses throughout the county. These included:
Preston – five addresses visited in the Avenham, Moor Park, Ribbleton and Deepdale area. One Romanian woman was spoken to by officers.
Blackburn – six addresses visited in the Queens Park, Mill Hill, Witton and Audley areas. Five women of Hungarian and Romanian backgrounds were spoken to.
Burnley/ Accrington – one address in Burnley and one address in Accrington. Two Romanian females were spoken to in Accrington but no offences disclosed.
Blackpool – three addresses visited in the Revoe and South Shore areas. Three Romanian women were spoken to in one address but no disclosures.
Det Sgt Finch-Hall added: “This operation highlighted that ‘pop up’ brothels are operating in a wide range of communities within Lancashire. We welcome any community intelligence that may help to identify addresses where prostitution may be taking place.
“Where brothels are operating residents may notice frequent visitors to the address or experience an increase in vehicles visiting or leaving the location. They may experience noise at unsociable hours or encounter customers who accidentally knock on their door whilst trying to locate the address of the brothel. The occupants of the address may also change frequently. Not all sex workers will be victims of sexual exploitation however Lancashire Constabulary is committed to ensuring the safety of people operating in this industry.
“We want to offer help and advice for people who think they may be victims of human trafficking or slavery.
“There are a number of ways you can contact someone for help. You don’t have to speak directly to the police there are charities that can help you. You can also ring some services anonymously; you do not have to give your name or go to court or give a statement.
“Lancashire Constabulary is committed to investigating modern day slavery offences committed against victims of any nationality. The perpetrators who commit this type of crime pray on the vulnerable regardless of their origin.”