The Police Foundation, a UK policing think-tank, has released a Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales. The report, ‘Redesigning policing and public safety for the 21st Century’, recommends sweeping changes to address the decline in services and in public confidence over recent years.
The report includes key reforms for tackling modern slavery, which have received praise from Dame Sara Thornton, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
The Police Foundation report highlights how environmental and social changes in recent years have transformed the nature and incidence of different crimes. It notes that organised crime in particular has made use of increasingly sophisticated technology and has benefited at the expense of vulnerable people.
In the case of human trafficking, online recruitment is now very common in the UK, while profits are laundered using sophisticated methods that demonstrate the need for new approaches and a move away from “analogue policing”.
The Police Foundation’s main recommendation is to shift the focus from punishment to crime prevention. This would include various changes that would have a major impact on tackling modern slavery.
A key recommendation is the creation of a new Crime Prevention Agency, tasked with implementing and enforcing a legal duty for larger businesses to take active steps to prevent crime in their companies. The report noted the need to reduce fraud – however, from a modern slavery perspective, the measure should also include steps to strengthen due diligence in supply lines.
Also included in the recommendation are new Crime Prevention Units (further developing the concept of the existing Violence Reduction Units), which would work in every force district to focus on crimes that cover a larger geographical area. The report authors note that crimes like modern slavery and ‘county lines’ trafficking of vulnerable people (especially children) require prevention activities across a broader area, which would be better carried out by the Crime Prevention Units.
The second key recommendation is to give a major boost to the National Crime Agency to tackle cross-border and serious organised crime, which is often beyond the capacity of local police forces to address effectively. This would allow serious and wide-ranging crimes, such as modern slavery, to be coordinated by a single body, allowing for more effective investigations.
The report also notes the importance of equipping police forces with the skills and resources to do the job. This includes providing police officers and staff with training, including relational skills training covering victim care, mental health, and trauma, issues which victims of modern slavery often face.
The report recommends programmes to boost the number of detectives. While the ‘uplift programme’ has resulted in the recruitment of 20,000 new officers, the national shortage of 7,000 detectives leads to delays in responding to serious crimes, including human trafficking, in turn delaying justice for survivors.
When tackling human trafficking and modern slavery, prevention is key. This is why Hope for Justice has “preventing exploitation” as one of our four pillars, and why we work with vulnerable communities across the world to help people and families protect themselves against the deceptive methods used by traffickers. We welcome efforts any from the police forces in England and Wales to reduce the number of people living in slavery and to create an ecosystem in which slavery cannot survive.
We agree with the statement by Dame Sara Thornton in her role as Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner: “I welcome the publication of this final report and I am greatly encouraged by the emphasis on preventing crime and harm through a comprehensive approach to public safety, including a focus on the role of public health.”
By Emily Gregg for Hope for Justice