Officers from Cheshire Constabulary are appealing for landlords, letting agents and local residents to help root out organised crime gangs (OCGs).
Over recent months officers have received intelligence to suggest that OCGs have been renting large high value properties in rural areas to house modern slavery victims.
In some cases the properties have also been used as illegal call centres, where fraudsters target vulnerable residents and defraud them out of thousands of pounds.
While there have been no recent incidents in Cheshire, officers are aware of similar cases at neighbouring forces and are asking local residents to be on the lookout.
Detective Sergeant Jon Ryder, from Macclesfield Local Policing Unit, said: “Organised crime gangs are continually evolving the way in which they operate and are always looking for new ways of evading justice.
“In recent months we have received intelligence to suggest that gangs have been letting out properties in order to house modern slavery victims and operate illegal call centres.
“By renting larger homes in mainly rural and concealed areas they are hoping that they can operate without being noticed.
“To help combat this, we are asking all Cheshire residents to be vigilant and keep any eye out for any suspicious activity in their communities, particularly rural areas.
“We are also asking landlords and letting agents to ensure that they conduct regular inspections on properties they are renting out and report any suspicious activity. If a tenant won’t let them view the property, there is probably a reason for that – and the reason may regard criminal activity.
"I urge anyone who suspects that a property is being used by an organised crime gang to contact us on 101. We will act on the information that we receive.
“Alternatively, residents can report information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit the Crimestoppers website at www.crimestoppers.co.uk.”
Signs of a property being used by organised crime gangs include:
• Increased vehicle movements in and out of the property
• Suspicious activity at the address
• Constantly covered or blocked-off windows
• People coming and going at all hours or neighbours you never see
• Increased utility bills.
If you think you are a victim of modern slavery/human trafficking contact the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121700