Slavery gangs and crime lords in West Yorkshire are the targets of a new dedicated Human Trafficking unit - one of the first in the country.

And the top detective heading up for the new squad says is not just larger cities these gangs are operating in but areas like Kirklees.

Det Chief Insp Warren Stevenson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in bigger town and cities. It happens in Kirklees and across West Yorkshire.

“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.

“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.”

The new Human Trafficking Unit, based at an undisclosed location in the region, will be staffed by specialist detectives and investigators as part of West Yorkshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

Det Ch Insp Stevenson added: “What this new team will do is give us extra capability to investigate the larger organised crime gangs bringing trafficking victims into our region, and to provide extra support to divisions managing human slavery investigations locally.

“By managing these cases through our Serious and Organised Crime Unit we can ensure all the resources we bring to bear to investigate the most complex conspiracies can be used to target traffickers operating at a national and international level.”

Conditions people trafficked to the UK were forced to stay in
 

The new unit, is also being used to raise awarenes of people trafficking and encourage the public to report suspicious crime.

Work by the detectives will be complemented by the start-up of a West Yorkshire Anti Trafficking Network with the 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.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commisioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “We know that this crime is under-reported and as we progress some of these investigations we know that further victims will emerge in Kirklees and other parts of West Yorkshire.

“It’s really sending a message out to these organised gangs that ‘we are going to come after you’.”

Mr Burns-Williamson added: “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.”