POLICE have uncovered 33 potential cases of modern slavery in Yorkshire in the past six months, the Home Office has revealed.
The alleged victims were all referred to the National Crime Agency by West Yorkshire Police and assessed through a new system being piloted in the region.
Following the high profile conviction of Dewsbury factory owner Mohammed Rafiq for conspiracy to traffic at Leeds Crown Court last week, the spotlight has been shone once again on these hard-to-detect crimes and the difficulties in getting people to come forward.
However former police chief Allan Doherty, who now advises businesses on how to detect exploitation, said the 33 alleged cases from West Yorkshire were a promising start to the pilot and showed agencies were increasingly aware of the signs to look out for.
“The fact that so many people have been referred in such a small period of time shows there’s a lot of activity going on locally and that’s to be welcomed.
“It shows that the authorities and partners working with them are doing a good job by putting people forward.
“Clearly in Yorkshire the work put in is paying dividends,” said Mr Doherty, a former Bradford police commander who worked on the case against Mohammed Rafiq.
In 2014, 2,340 potential victims of human trafficking were identified across the country – a 34 per cent increase on the previous year.
However, the true number of victims in the UK is thought to be significantly higher.