Beds, Herts & Bucks

Fifteen arrests in Milton Keynes modern slavery raids

Car wash raid
Image caption The operation is the biggest Thames Valley Police has led into trafficking, slavery and drugs

Fifteen arrests have been made in modern-day slavery raids.

Five car washes and 15 residential addresses in Milton Keynes and Bedford were targeted by Thames Valley Police, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency.

As well as the arrests, 36 victims of trafficking have been "safeguarded".

The operation, which involved 180 officers, is the biggest Thames Valley Police has led into trafficking, slavery and drugs.

In a statement, the force said an "organised crime group" was using hand car washes "as a front for their criminal activity".

The operation was carried out in connection with police in Belgium, where six people who were due to be trafficked to the UK were stopped on Tuesday morning.

Image caption About 180 officers were involved in the operation which took place on Tuesday

Det Ch Insp Darran Hill said the issue of modern-day slavery was "far more widespread than people realise".

"Not every car wash will be run by organised crime groups, but it's important to look out for the signs" he said.

The types of clothing and equipment used by workers are key indicators, according to Det Ch Insp Hill.

"If they are soaking wet, washing cars in jeans and trainers and not wearing waterproof clothing, it can be a sign that something is wrong," he said.

A "substantial amount" of cash and Class A drugs were also found during searches at residential properties across Milton Keynes.

Two people were arrested on conspiracy to supply class A drugs at a property in Shackleton Place in Oldbrook.

Thames Valley Police said it had been working on the operation for the past 12 months.

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