Police appeal to stamp out human trafficking in Fenland

A police team is appealing for help from the public in its bid to tackle human trafficking, forced labour and overcrowded housing in Fenland.

The team, code-named Operation Pheasant, is based in Wisbech and was set up to combat human exploitation and overcrowded homes.

It works closely with a variety of agencies including the Gangmasters Licencing Authority, Cambridgeshire Fire, HMRC, Norfolk and Lincolnshire Police as well as Fenland District Council, and each agency has specialist powers and their own area of expertise.

Working together in partnership allows suspects to be investigated from several different angles. PC Nick Webber explained: “Working with other agencies allows us to delve into every aspect of a case.

“If the police cannot take enforcement action against an individual then the evidence is simply handed over to an agency that can and now we have built up the relationships this can be done quickly and effectively.”

Since its creation in October 2012 the team has identified close to 100 victims of exploitation, more than 15 arrests have been made, and five gangmasters have ceased trading.

Looking at the wider issue of transportation, the team, along with VOSA, have issued more than 40 prohibition notices, which saw drastic improvements of vehicle fleets in this sector of work.

The team is now in talks with the DVLA to obtain devolved powers, allowing the police to take action against both foreign registered vehicles and UK registered untaxed vehicles, and working to build international links to deal with foreign agencies who are deceiving migrants in their home countries with false promises.

The Op Pheasant team are appealing to people in Fenland to report any addresses where residents suspect overcrowding and for landlords to report if they suspect someone is controlling people in their properties.

The team can offer advice to landlords and gangmasters to reduce the risk of exploitation within their properties/companies.

You can contact the team by email on OpPheasant@cambs.pnn.police.uk or call 101 and ask for a message to be passed to the Op Pheasant Team.