A dedicated police unit that will coordinate the response to modern slavery in Hertfordshire was launched on Wednesday.
Operation Tropic was unveiled during a conference which saw frontline staff from partner agencies - as well as leading authorities on tackling human trafficking and slavery from across the country - sharing expertise and best practice.
The unit will co-ordinate the Force’s response to modern slavery, provide assistance to investigating officers, liaise with partner organisations and report back to national leadership in the area.
Representatives from Hertfordshire Constabulary, the charity Shiva Foundation, which aims to tackle and prevent human trafficking in the UK, Hertfordshire County Council, the Police Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire (PCC) attended the day-long event at the Watford Hilton.
Detective Superintendent Dave Wheatley introduced Operation Tropic, a newly created pilot unit which sits within the Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Command.
DS Wheatley said: “Almost every modern slavery investigation will require a multi-agency response, from charities that provide support to victims to multiple law enforcement agencies that tackle trafficking.
"Therefore it is hugely beneficial for front line staff from different agencies throughout the county and further afield to come together to share best practice and become more aware of the issues around this often complex and hidden crime.
"In the future, the Constabulary’s Operation Tropic will play a leading role in developing and sustaining the partnership between these key stakeholders.
"This pilot represents a new approach in how we tackle modern slavery in Hertfordshire and I know that other Forces around the country will be closely following our progress with a view to replicating our model.”
Meenal Sachdev, director of the Shiva Foundation, said: “Tackling modern slavery requires a co-ordinated and united approach, and we welcome the launch of this dedicated police unit as part of the collaborative efforts in Hertfordshire.
“The unit will play a key role in bringing perpetrators of modern slavery to justice and ensuring police on the frontline are best equipped to help protect those who may be at risk.
"Partnering with key groups on a local level helps drive real change, and we look forwards to sharing further announcements from the Hertfordshire network.”
And the county's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Lloyd added: “The creation of Operation Tropic is a significant step forward in the tackling of this serious crime and delivers a pledge in my Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan which calls for greater partnership working and improving the care of victims.
"Hertfordshire Constabulary should be commended on leading the way and this pilot programme shows how serious the force is taking this crime.”
Sue Darker, lead officer for safeguarding at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The Modern Slavery Conference was a great opportunity to share knowledge and expertise, to showcase our great working relationships and to promote Hertfordshire as a county that is forward thinking in its approach to protecting and caring for those who may have been exploited or are currently at risk of being abused or neglected.
"The Constabulary’s Operation Tropic pilot unit further emphasises the difference that we hope to make when tackling these very real and serious issues in the future.”
The event was jointly funded by Shiva Foundation and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire.