A GANG suspected of forcing children into modern day slavery to deal drugs in Grimsby on their behalf have been targeted in a Humberside Police-led operation today.
Working in partnership with the Regional Organised Crime Unit, simultaneous warrants were carried out in Grimsby, Leeds and Bradford in connection with the operation leading to five arrests.
In Grimsby, a 30-year-old man was arrested at a property in Frederick Street on suspicion of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin and an offence under the modern day slavery act.
As the strike was carried out, colleagues from West Yorkshire Police, British Transport Police and the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) executed warrants at properties in Bradford and Leeds.
A 34-year-old man was arrested at an address in Kings Way Garth, Leeds; a 28-year-old man was arrested in Bradford and a 25-year-old woman at an address in Dawson Lane, Bradford.
A 32-year-old Bradford man has also handed himself in.
All have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin and an offence under the modern day slavery act.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Booker said: “Today’s action is the result of a long-term investigation led by Humberside Police into the supply of Class A drugs in Grimsby and the exploitation of children.
“Thanks to the work of Humberside team, working alongside colleagues in the Regional Organised Crime Unit, five people are now in custody and we’re continuing to question them about their potential involvement in not only bringing heroin and crack cocaine into our area but also about forcing children into dealing drugs for them.
“We know that many county lines gangs operate by taking vulnerable children away from their homes, friends and families, depositing them in a strange town and forcing them to deal drugs for them.
“This is a form of modern day slavery and it’s not something that we are prepared to tolerate in this area.
“Our aim in carrying out this operation is to protect children – and other vulnerable people – from exploitation by criminal gangs who use them to line their own pockets.
“We also know the impact that this kind of criminal enterprise has on communities and that’s why the team works tirelessly to find, arrest and charge those we believe to be responsible.
“By getting in touch if you have concerns about drug-related crime in your area, you can help us build up the evidence we need to continue to target the people behind it and take action against them.”
Welcoming news of the arrests, divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Darren Wildbore, added: “Now, as ever, our biggest priority is protecting those who are most vulnerable.
“While today’s operation has been led by the Organised Crime Team, their work complements the aims of Operation Wilberforce – a forcewide initiative dedicated to proactively investigating allegations of modern day slavery and human trafficking and protecting victims of these crimes.
“Anyone can be a victim of modern day slavery – men, women and children, from all nationalities and backgrounds.
“My appeal to you today is to help us spot the signs that someone is being exploited in this way.
“If you start to see children coming and going from an address where they’ve not been previously – particularly if they don’t have a local accent – they could be victims of modern slavery.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard from the Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “Criminals know no boundaries and that is why it is particularly important for police forces and other key partners to work together to protect the communities we serve.
“The Regional Organised Crime Unit coordinated this disruption and supported West Yorkshire Police, British Transport Police and Humberside Police on today’s operation.
“It is important that people let us know about suspected illegal activity in their area. If we know about it we will take action.”
If you’re concerned about drug-related crime or that someone may be the victim of modern slavery, call us on our non-emergency 101 line or 999 if someone is in immediate danger.
You can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 121 700 and you won’t have to give your name.