The number of victims of modern slavery identified in Lincolnshire has quadrupled, it has been revealed.
Last year, 51 victims of modern slavery were found and referred to authorities in the county – but this year numbers are on course to exceed 200.
The shocking statistic was revealed at a Modern Slavery conference organised by the Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones.
Mr Jones said: “Modern slavery and the exploitation of the vulnerable is a barbaric and despicable crime that is not just a criminal act but a violation of our humanity.
“To subject other human beings, children amongst them, to this level of degradation, cruelty and abuse is abhorrent and our communities must do everything we can to put an end to these horrific offenses.”
Sgt Will Tharby told delegates at the Grantham event that in 2017 31 victims were identified through the National Referral Mechanism – a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support.
In 2018 the number referred was 51 and so far this year 170 victims have been discovered.
Sgt Tharby also revealed that modern slavery only affecting foreign nationals is a myth.
In fact, UK citizens represented the third highest number of victims – with Albania and Vietnam topping the list.
He also warned how young men were using Facebook to contact vulnerable women, luring them into a relationship before persuading them to prostitue themselves because they were broke.
In many cases the men using these “romance scams” had conned several women into prostitution and were running all of them as a business.
Speaker Sue Swidrak, from Modern Slavery Consultants told attendees that ‘one person falls victim to modern slavery across the world every four seconds’ and ‘we are never more than a quarter of a mile away from a modern slave’.
The event is one a series of events focused on modern slavery organised by PCC Jones over the course of this year.
They are targeted at businesses and organisations to help them understand how modern slavery works, how to identify it and how to combat it.
Mr Jones said: “Often businesses can be an unwitting victims of the gang masters peddling this foul trade and they should be properly equipped to protect themselves.”