A new initiative designed to tackle modern slavery in Hastings and Rother was launched on Friday (December 15).
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne and Home Secretary Amber Rudd officially unveiled the service, called Discovery.
The Discovery office is home to police officers, fire officers, the newly appointed Stop the Traffik Hastings coordinator, and staff from Hastings and Rother councils, the DWP, HMRC, immigration and charities, who will all be working together.
Mrs Bourne said: “The Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has emphasised the need for strong partnerships in the fight against modern slavery so I am pleased this has been a year of effective collaborations across the South East. As PCC, I am funding a ‘modern slavery business manager’ who will work with police and partners in Sussex, including the business and private sector. I will also be funding King’s Church to develop its facilities into a ‘reception centre’ so, when large scale operations take place, victims have a safe place to go to in those initial hours and days.”
Natalie Williams, who chairs the Hastings Anti-Trafficking Hub (HATH) on behalf of King’s Church, said: “HATH was formed over two years ago and has regularly brought together many of the organisations that are now working together for Discovery. We’ve been able to achieve a great deal over the last couple of years. Since the multi-agency approach through HATH, partners have encountered 244 people involved in trafficking (either as perpetrators or victims) in Hastings and Rother.”
Sergeant Simon Barden added: “The HATH has had a significant impact on the way we police this type of crime. Discovery is the next step and is about identifying vulnerable members of the community who are trapped in a world of exploitation. We believe this is the biggest multi-agency team in the country and that will make all the difference to what we can achieve for victims.”
Ms Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, said: “This is a form of crime we have to go out and look for. When we find it, it appals us. That’s why I’m delighted to officially launch Discovery. It’s great to see the commitment of the many agencies working in partnership to tackle this issue in our communities.”
Anyone concerned about modern slavery should call the Discovery team via Sussex Police on 101.