Thankfully, these are not issues that directly concern many of our landlords, but they are still something that we want everyone who lives or works in Sandwell to be aware of.
Although often unnoticed, modern slavery and people trafficking are real and are happening right now in our area. Without being dramatic, at this very moment, in a house or business premises in your street, there could be someone being forced to work against their will, subjected to physical and potentially violent control and deprived of any freedom to either make choices for themselves or get away. The victims could be involved in anything from forced participation in crime, unsafe and exploitative manual labour, organised begging or sex-work.
For various reasons, these problems do seem to be particularly prevalent in the West Midlands and Sandwell Council officers have been involved with some very distressing cases recently. More positively though as a council, we are playing our part in going out and proactively dealing with the issue where we can as well as doing much work to raise awareness. For example the successful conference we hosted just last week which bought together more than 150 delegates from different services.
This is an issue though for the whole community and it needs everyone’s attention. Landlords are often well placed to spot potential issues. Not only do they often have significant local knowledge, but privately rented properties are much sought to house victims by the criminals involved.
Just to be clear, we’re not blaming the landlords here. Criminals will often present themselves to landlords with empty properties, seemingly as ordinary and respectable people so that they can con the landlord into letting them have the property. Please be on your guard, not only with new sign-ups but also with established, existing tenants where there might be something that doesn’t seem quite right going on in our property.
Here are some of the things that just might indicate that something untoward is happening:
- several unrelated adults living at a single address
- people being regularly collected very early in the morning and/or returned late at night
- signs of injury, malnourishment and a general untidy appearance
- people being isolated from the rest of the community
- people who live and work at the same address in poor conditions
- women being kept in houses where there are large numbers of male visitors
- people who don’t know their address
- people who cannot produce their documents
- people who often seem anxious and fearful, especially in the presence of a ‘friend’ or
- interpreter who appears to be controlling them and their answers
And the official advice is:
If you see something suspicious, no matter how small, please call police on 101, the UK Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.