A new app designed to tackle human trafficking and exploitation has been launched by Police Scotland on Anti-Slavery Day.
Officers are now utilising the Unseen anti-slavery app – hosted by the UK’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline – as an additional tool.
It helps them spot the signs of different types of exploitation, ensuring the correct support and welfare provisions can then be put in place for victims.
Assistant chief constable Judi Heaton, Police Scotland’s lead for major crime, public protection and local crime, said: “Anti-Slavery Day is a reminder to all of us that slavery is not a thing of the past – it is a crime and it is happening now.
“People, adults and children, are being enslaved, bought and sold, and transported across international borders but also nationally and within Scotland. They are being forced into prostitution, into domestic servitude, their labour is being exploited or they are being forced to steal or distribute illegal drugs.
“People who are trafficked are hidden in plain sight and the Unseen app will enhance officers’ ability to spot them and take a victim-centred approach to their circumstances. I also hope that by telling the public we have adopted the app, we are increasing their awareness of the illegal trade of exploiting vulnerable people.
“Not all victims see themselves as victims – they may have made a choice to come to Scotland on a promise of a better life, fallen into the hands of traffickers and then found themselves victims of horrific deception and exploitation.”
The introduction of the app comes just months after Police Scotland launched a campaign to tackle modern slavery.
As part of the campaign, people were urged to be aware and vigilant of the signs of exploitation.
Ash Regan, minister for community safety, said: “Human trafficking and exploitation has absolutely no place in Scotland, but it is happening within our communities.
“The new Unseen app will support our police officers to effectively spot signs of human trafficking and exploitation which can be the crucial first step in recovering victims from horrific situations.
“On Anti-Slavery Day, I urge everyone to help us tackle this abhorrent behaviour. If you suspect someone is being exploited within your community, report it to Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
Last year, police received 228 referrals warning of people across Scotland who may have been the victim of labour exploitation.
There are fears many potential crimes have gone unreported as victims were less visible during coronavirus lockdowns.
Andrew Wallis, Unseen CEO, said: “I’m delighted that Police Scotland is rolling out the Unseen app to its officers. Unseen shares the data and insights it gathers from the app, and the UK’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline, with governments, businesses, other anti-slavery organisations and, of course, police forces across the UK.
“This data helps inform anti-slavery initiatives and policy, ensuring our collective response to the issue is as professional and effective as possible.
“The app also helps raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. It is a much bigger problem in the UK than many people realise. The more awareness and understanding we have of exploitation in the UK, the easier it will be for us to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking as a society.”
People can call the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700.