top of page

Week-long UK-wide child trafficking operation leads to just 38 arrests - that's 2 per police force

THIRTY eight people suspected of being involved in trafficking children and vulnerable adults for sexual abuse, slavery or involvement in crime have been arrested after 99 potential victims were identified.

Nineteen police forces across the UK worked with other agencies on the week-long operation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

An NCA spokesman said: "Of those arrested, 18 were for child criminal and drug related exploitation, 11 were for sexual exploitation, while the rest were for a variety of offences including domestic servitude, labour exploitation and general trafficking."

Detectives from the Met Police raided a suspected brothel where young Romanian girls and women were allegedly being exploited in East London.

They found several Romanian women working in "distressing conditions and being sold for as low as £20 per hour for sex work."

The operation saw increased police presence at London tube and rail stations where suspected victims of child trafficking were thought to be forced to work as pick pockets by modern-day Fagins. Police Scotland identified and safeguarded five minors that had allegedly been trafficked to the UK.

The spokesman added: "Border Force officers also carried out additional checks at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles to detect potential victims of trafficking travelling through UK juxtaposed controls, finding a Romanian male travelling in a minibus, coming to work in the UK for the first time with no work permit.

"His travelling companions had recruited him from his village and paid for his travel and documentation. He expected to earn just £40 a day. The man has been safeguarded due to his perceived vulnerability and obvious signs of distress.

"In all 99 potential victims were identified through a range of law enforcement activity initiating 51 new investigations.

"Although the activity targeted those exploiting children, a number of adult potential victims were also located as a result of the work, with 72 children and 27 adults identified."

In the year ending 2020, 4,946 children entered a system designed to protect people from trafficking called the National Referral Mechanism claiming to be victims of trafficking and exploitation in the UK. Fifty five new referrals were made to this after the operation.

Liam Harrison from the NCA’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit said: “This activity, which was months in the making, identified and safeguarded victims of child trafficking and disrupted those controlling them. “Our joint work across the week has also sparked a number of new investigations and it is expected that these results will rise over the coming weeks as our operational activity continues.”

The joint week of action was part of a wider intensification which involved partners from across Europe and saw a total of 175 arrests and 187 potential victims identified across Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.


THIS was headed up by the NCA as a big success, but with the huge amount of trafficking going on in the UK and 19 police forces involved over a week this equates to just two arrests per police force on a supposedly specialist operation. All are unlikely to be charged, although investigations are ongoing.

Of the 99 "vulnerable" people identified just over half were referred to the National Referral Mechanism, so what of the other 44? Were they victims, and, if so, why were they not referred? Or were they involved in crime and let off?

What these "week-long" intensifications into various crimes tell us is that police forces regularly sit on intelligence about crimes that they then act upon during these so-called intensification weeks, which grab headlines and look like big operations. But then what happens? Do they go back to sitting on intelligence for the next big week?


bottom of page