With reports of individuals in East Sussex being exploited and abused increasing, East Sussex County Council is urging people to look out of the signs and join the fight.
The call is being made to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, which runs each year on October 18, and aims to raise awareness of modern slavery.
Modern Slavery can involve a wide range of abuse including forced and compulsory labour, servitude and trafficking of people for various forms of exploitation.
During 2018, Sussex Police recorded 170 Crimes relating to offences within the Modern Slavery Act, 40 of which related to East Sussex.
This year so far, 45 have been reported in East Sussex and 135 in Sussex as a whole, but national changes to recording rules mean the final tally is likely to be significantly higher.
Tom Hook, East Sussex County Council assistant director for planning, performance and engagement, said: “People may not think modern slavery is a problem in East Sussex, but these figures suggest otherwise.
“It’s a common misconception that this issue is happening behind closed doors, with victims hidden away, but in many cases they are working ‘in plain sight’ in our communities in businesses such as hand car washes, nail bars, restaurants and illegal prostitution.
“Many people may not realise they are being used by criminals, making it even more important that we all know how to spot the signs. By taking an active role we can take a stand against organised crime and criminals and protect vulnerable people from falling victim.”
The Safer East Sussex Team is working with Stop the Traffik and Rother Voluntary Action to raise awareness of the different types of exploitation affecting communities across East Sussex and have launched the Communities Against Exploitation Campaign 2019.
Organised criminals use various tactics to manipulate, threaten and exploit by using deceptive and coercive methods. The campaign aims to lift the veil on methods used by criminals by showing what it can look like and how to spot the signs of exploitation.
East Sussex County Council contributes to the Discovery project, a multi-agency partnership which includes district and borough councils and other agencies. Discovery aims to protect people from modern slavery and take action against those responsible for it.
Having launched in December 2017 in Hastings and Rother, the partnership now supports wider operations in East Sussex including Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden. The aim of Discovery is to share information and intelligence to safeguard potential victims and make it difficult for offenders to operate in East Sussex.
To learn more about the signs of modern slavery and how to report concerns visit www.sussex.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/ms/modern-slavery/
Further information about safeguarding, including modern slavery, can be found www.eastsussex.gov.uk/socialcare/worried/safeguarding/what/ and further advice is available by calling the modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700.