Residents are being urged to help spot the signs of trafficking in a new campaign targeting those who are sexually exploiting innocent people throughout Scotland.
The campaign by Police Scotland seeks to highlight that people are being trafficked and sexually exploited in towns and cities across the country, in plain sight. Through eye-catching advertisements on buses and trains, and across social media channels, the campaign aims to raise public awareness of what may be going on in their communities.
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, Crime and Protection lead for Police Scotland, said: "Sexual exploitation, or prostitution, is highly lucrative for criminal gangs who exploit people and place them at risk of significant harm.
"People may reply to an advertisement offering work in Scotland and find themselves exploited in prostitution for the financial gain of criminals."
On one day alone more than 1700 adverts relating to people involved in prostitution in Scotland appeared on the internet. Not all of those people will be victims of exploitation but many will be.
ACC MacDonald added: "Sexual exploitation takes place behind closed doors. Premises may be rented out short term from landlords or agencies who have no idea that their properties, are being used for this purpose. Equally, there are landlords, who may own numerous properties, and who know exactly what is happening in those premises.
"People are being trafficked into and around Scotland and it is unacceptable that people are being bought and sold, exploited and abused in this way. We are asking people to be aware and to report if they believe someone is being trafficked or exploited.
"We will target those who control, abuse and exploit others by working collaboratively with partners to ensure that Scotland is and remains a hostile environment to this trade."
Since 1st January 2018, 44 women and two men have identified themselves as victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and came forward to seek support. Of those, seven were girls under the age of 18.
The Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), which is funded by the Scottish Government and run by Community Safety Glasgow, has been providing intensive support and protection to women traumatised by their experiences since 2004.
TARA provides practical help and emotional support to victims of trafficking for commercial exploitation who are aged 18 and over who have been recovered in Scotland. The service operates 24/7 and can offer women confidential help to access safe, crisis accommodation, health care, psychological assessment, legal advice and advocacy.
Bronagh Andrew, TARA's Operations Manager, welcomed the campaign and said: "Trafficked women do not give consent and those who pay for sex are a significant part of the problem so we are pleased to support Police Scotland's vital campaign targeting the perpetrators of this serious crime.
"The majority of women we support were unaware that they were destined to be sexually exploited in Scotland. They have survived significant harm at the hands of traffickers and those who have paid to sexually abuse them. In order to prevent and eradicate this form of gender based violence a holistic partnership approach must be taken, from raising awareness amongst the public and frontline services to encourage reporting and recovery of victims to disrupting trafficking networks to challenging the demand from those who pay for sex in Scotland."
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Human trafficking and exploitation are appalling abuses of human rights, leaving victims highly traumatised and living in fear. It is completely unacceptable these crimes are taking place in modern Scotland and we are determined to do all we can to support victims and target perpetrators."
Signs of potential trafficking and sexual exploitation include:
For further information about the campaign and the signs of trafficking and sexual exploitation go to www.traffickedinplainsight.co.uk.
If you believe someone may be a victim of traffickers or of sexual exploitation please contact Police Scotland on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700