Safeguarding team combat gang exploitation through innovative use of legislation
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Safeguarding officers from Operation Raptor are tackling gang exploitation by using legislation to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.
The success of the team’s innovative approach has led to them presenting their work to the Home Office, with Essex being one of the first forces nationally to use the tactic.
County Lines gangs make money by trafficking people and drugs and invading the houses of vulnerable people to use as bases for drug dealing – known as cuckooing.
Cuckooing, the team successfully argued in court, is an example of modern slavery as the victim is effectively forced to work for the gang against their will while the gang gain financially from the exploitation.
Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STROs) have now been placed on six individuals in Essex who have gang affiliations. The orders will be in place for three to five years.
The STROs place strict conditions on who the individuals can associate with or contact, where they can go and what they can post on social media. Anyone breaching their conditions faces arrest.
Detective Sergeant Mark Ghosh leads the safeguarding team. He said that not only do the STROs limit the ability of gang members under investigation to commit crime, they also offer an increased level of protection to those people the gang is exploiting.
“The Modern Slavery Act was brought in in 2015, but STROs have been under-utilised. They are a civil order that helps us impose restrictions on these suspects. This is a new way of thinking.
“If an individual is being prosecuted for a County Lines-style offence where there’s been any form of exploitation, and we believe there is a risk the suspect may look to exploit others, we can use the civil order to limit what the suspect can do.
“Previously, we’d concentrate on the charges for the drugs offences, now we’re also tackling the exploitation taking place with the support of our partner organisations. It’s a whole system approach.”
DS Ghosh believes using STROs can help to break the cycle of exploitation and offending that many juveniles can become trapped in and reduces their potential to lure other young people into gang life.
He said: “Victims of exploitation might go on to exploit other young people, so putting conditions in place that mean we can check their phones enables us to make sure they’re not communicating with others who have the same STRO, approaching other young people or glorifying drugs or drug dealing on social media.
“There are a huge number of conditions we can put in place. These help safeguard the juvenile from being involved in criminality, prevent reoffending, and safeguard other potential victims, as any breach will lead to arrest. So far, it’s been very effective.”
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