Shoppers in Warrington Town Centre today (Tuesday 30 July) were treated to a surprise dance performance on International Day against Human Trafficking.
The street performance stunt was organised by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) and Cheshire Police to raise awareness of the important issue of human trafficking and promote the confidential 24/7 'Modern Slavery Helpline’.
The dancers from local company MD Productions performed to Beyoncé’s song ‘Freedom’ whose lyrics are hoped to empower those who have been exploited to seek help from police or agencies like the Modern Slavery Helpline.
The initiative in the town centre aimed to capture as wide an audience as possible.
Shoppers and passers-by were also given freebies promoting the Modern Slavery Helpline, which supports victims of modern slavery.
Detective Sergeant Lisa Wilson of Cheshire Constabulary said: “Modern Slavery is a hidden crime that sees victims suffer in silence, terrified, often feeling isolated, alone and trapped.
“By speaking to the community and putting on the performance we hope to have raised awareness of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and to have helped educate the public on how to spot the signs of potential victims of exploitation.
“This crime is closer to home than people think, it is present in all types of communities and could well be happening in your neighbourhood. I would encourage people to familiarise themselves with the signs, look out for them and contact the local police on 101 or the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121 700 if they feel something isn’t right.”
Liz Borthwick, the Regional Modern Slavery Co-ordinator from the NWROCU said raising awareness of what human trafficking is and how victims can seek help was crucial.
She said: "Protecting vulnerable people is at the heart of what we do and we know that human trafficking is still a vastly under-reported crime.
"It is our duty not only to build confidence and trust in the police with victims but also raise awareness among the general public about this very important issue. Modern slavery is happening all around us but the public can play their part in stamping out exploitation by keeping an eye out for the signs of slavery”.
Rachel Harper from the Modern Slavery Helpline said: “Modern slavery is happening across the UK and is a searing scourge on our society. The Modern Slavery Helpline is proud to work with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and applauds MD Productions for today’s dance flash mob and for lending their skills to such a pressing issue. The more we, as a community, look for signs of modern slavery, the more we see them. And, when we see signs of abuse and exploitation, it is important to know whom to call. The Modern Slavery Helpline is free, available 24/7 and ready to discuss suspicions or take reports from members of the community, advise victims, offer guidance to frontline professionals, or support businesses.
“Raising awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery is key to preventing it. It is fantastic to see leadership from Merseyside Police and events such as today’s performance in Liverpool used to increase understanding of these often hidden crimes.”
General signs that someone may have been exploited include:
• Physical appearance - Signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt
• Isolation – rarely allowed to travel on their own and seem under the control of others. They may be in relationships which just don’t seem right e.g. a young teenager appearing to be the boyfriend/ girlfriend of a much older adult
• Poor living conditions – living in dirty overcrowded accommodation
• Restricted freedom of movement – appear to have no identification documents and few personal possessions
• Reluctant to seek help – avoiding eye contact, appearing frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers
For more information visit www.modernslaveryhelpline.org.
You can report by calling 0800 121 700 or online by visiting www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report or by using the Unseen App.