Crime commissioner Vera Baird said slavery is a modern-day problem which is affecting people in the North East.
She is backing a new Home Office campaign which warns slavery is not confined to the past but is happening across the world and in the UK today.
Figures for last year from the UK National Referral Mechanism Statistics show an increase in reported cases of slavery of 47% compared to 2012.
Modern slavery, as well as including forced labour and criminal exploitation of people, also includes the issues of child trafficking and sexual exploitation where victims - women, children and men - are forced to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts against their will and under threat.
Vera Baird said: “It’s important we all realise that trafficking is not just something that happens in other countries, it happens here and we need to ensure people caught up in this terrible situation have access to the help and safety they need.”
Human trafficking forms part of the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy launched at the end of 2013 by Vera Baird and her fellow north east Police and Crime Commissioner’s, Barry Coppinger from Cleveland and Durham’s Ron Hogg.
A priority in this strategy describes how it will seek to assess the extent of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the north east, to raise the profile of the issue in the region and encourage the reporting of cases.
“We understand the feelings of fear and intimidation these people are experiencing – feelings which are often so great they prevent those people from seeking the help they need and deserve,” Vera Baird said.
“People fall into the dreadful world of modern slavery through a variety of reasons from poverty, lack of education and unstable political and social situations to economic reasons, limited opportunities and war.
“Victims can often face more than one kind of abuse, forced to do things against their will, often controlled and in some cases forced to work so they can pay off debts they have no realistic prospect of doing so.”
The Commissioner continued: “While there is no typical victim they are mostly vulnerable and it is all our responsibility to report any suspicions we have about someone we believe is a victim of this sadly very modern issue.”
The national Modern Slavery campaign was launched to raise awareness with the public, partners and businesses of slavery in the UK and encourage reporting to the new modern slavery helpline - 0800 0121 700 and website at modernslavery.co.uk
Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery will be discussed at a Regional Police and Crime Commissioners Seminar being organised by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger on Friday, 5 September.
For more information click on modern slavery after following this link: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/advice_and_information/