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Street association leader raises awareness of modern slavery in Burnham

Uncovering the hidden suffering ‘behind closed doors’ was the focus of a moving Street Association workshop in Burnham highlighting issues including exploitation.

Project leader Helen Cavill and her team from Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) spent the afternoon on Tuesday, October 29 raising awareness of domestic abuse, modern slavery, county line drugs, cuckooing and extremism in a bid to ‘upskill’ residents on how to recognise the signs.

The Street Association, which currently has 350 members in Buckinghamshire, originated in Birmingham and has been used by BCC to focus on issues in Bucks including scams and doorstep crime.

Helen runs six pilot schemes, one being in Burnham.

Describing the association, Helen said it was for an ‘individual who wants to connect their street’ and have the information to support their neighbours.

Last month’s meeting, at Burnham Park Hall focused on several key issues.

Domestic Abuse

Starting with an insight into domestic abuse, Helen cited ‘coercive control'.

She said: “It is where somebody is very much controlled in their relationship, but feel they can’t do anything without permission.

“Coercive control can cover intimidation, degradation, isolation, controlling through the threat of physical or sexual violence and it could be threats like ‘I’ll take your children away if you leave me’.”

Helen added that ‘gaslighting’ is defined as somebody ‘trying to mess with your mental health until you think you’re going mad’.

Physical, financial and online abuse could be ‘a punch in the face’, giving someone no access to money and sending abuse through phone, text or email.

“[Stalking could be] hundreds of texts a day, phone calls, following, turning up at work, and actually people [victims] can lose their jobs ,” said Helen.

Discussing the signs, Helen cited characteristics including personality changes, becoming withdrawn or having injuries and marks.

Modern slavery

Modern slavery involves ‘recruitment, harbouring or transporting of people into a situation of exploitation’.

This can be done through deception, violence, coercion or forced work.

Helen said: “Victims are not always trafficked from another country. They can be from this country as well.”

Highlighting the signs, Helen said: “Their appearance, signs of physical or psychological abuse, people looking malnourished or withdrawn; poor living conditions – victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation.”

County Lines

County lines ‘means groups of gangs using people or vulnerable adults, to carry and sell drugs across county boundaries’.

Helen added that the problem is increasing, with gangs recruiting young or vulnerable people who may already be drug addicts, have mental health issues or are homeless.

She said: “It’s a huge issue. It might not just be taking a package, it might be that children that are maybe from depravation, maybe given a pair of Nike trainers or some clothes or something that makes them feel special and they get roped in that way.”

Helen also highlighted several indicators including someone living in a chaotic or dysfunctional family, having a history of abuse, or having more money or more new clothes than usual.

Cuckooing

Cuckooing involves drug dealers taking over the home of a vulnerable individual and using it as a base for drug dealing and other criminal activity.

“It could be those that are already vulnerable, have learning difficulties or are already drug addicts,” said Helen.

Neighbours should look out for signs including ‘an increase of people entering and leaving a property’, signs of drug abuse, finding wrappers or needles, or an increase in anti-social behaviour, cars and fights.

Extremism

Extremism, as Helen states, involves an individual possessing extreme religious or political beliefs.

This could include groups such as the IRA and NIRA, extreme left or right groups, neo-Nazi groups, religious extremism and misogynistic groups.

Discussing the signs, Helen cited it could be changes in appearance, routine, being fixated on a certain topic, changes in language and going away from ‘long periods of time’.

For more information email the Buckinghamshire County Council communities team on communities@buckscc.gov.uk


Statistics

Figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, in the year ending March 2018 show:

  •  6.1 per cent (an estimated two million) adults aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse.
  • 2.4 per cent (an estimated 210,000) adults aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse.
  • 7.9 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men (equalling an estimated 1.3 million women and 695,000 men) aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse.
  • 3 per cent of women and 1.7 per cent of men (equating to 139,000 women and 72,000 men) aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse.

The Home Office’s police recorded crime statistics state:

  • Modern Slavery crimes have increased by 48 per cent, from 3,819 in the year ending June 2018 to 5,655 in the year ending June 2019.
  • A total of 14,509 domestic-abuse related offences have been recorded by the police between April 2017 and March 2018 in the Thames Valley.

According to the 2018/2019 Hate Crime report published by the Home Office:

  • 103,379 hate crimes were recorded by police in England and Wales in 2018/2019, an increase of 10 per cent on 2017/2018 where 94,121 offences were recorded.

An intelligence assessment from the National Crime Agency, published in 2018 stated:

  • There are currently more than 2,000 ‘individual deal line numbers in the UK’ which are ‘linked to approximately 1,000 branded county lines’.

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