POLICE have warned there may be dozens of human trafficking victims working in the Capital – after it was revealed they investigate one new report of the crime every fortnight.
Today, officers are appealing to the public for help to track down the gangs who force vulnerable victims to work against their will, and subject them to sexual, labour or domestic exploitation.
Detective Chief Inspector Alwyn Bell, of the Edinburgh Public Protection Unit, said human traffickers and their victims flock to Edinburgh from all over the world.
He said: “Human Trafficking is one of Edinburgh’s biggest hidden crimes, and the unknown extent of it is worrying, that’s why we need the public’s help.
“Because of the vast nature of the crime, it is very difficult for us to give an accurate figure on the number of people trafficked in the city every day.
“There is a constant flow of victims who come and go throughout the whole of Scotland. There have been over 20 reported cases of human trafficking that we have investigated this year but we have only managed to charge one person, due to the lack of evidence.
“Individuals don’t often see themselves as victims, that why we need the help of others to identify them”
Last week’s day of action, which coincided with anti-slavery day, was a major initiative to identify and protect potential victims of human trafficking.
Across Scotland, officers managed to identify 11 potential victims – including six people who were under the age of 18.
In Edinburgh alone, 16 premises were searched and officers spoke to people at Edinburgh Airport and Haymarket railway station
DCI Bell added: “Human traffickers put victims into jobs such as looking after cannabis farms, pick pocketing, begging, and they don’t tend to stay very long.
“Hundreds of individuals are engaged in off-street prostitution in Edinburgh, as to whether they are trafficked is a completely different matter.
“We have some fantastic reports from neighbours who see lots of men turning up at doors. We absolutely welcome that, as we are happy to investigate it.
“We rely on Edinburgh and the local community to alert us to anything remotely suspicious.
“We want to be more proactive.”
DCI Bell added that if city residents suspect they know someone who is a victim of human trafficking, they should take a clear description of the person, their location, their nationality, any travel routes used and anything else that could assist in an investigation.