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21 April 2015, 13:00 | Updated: 21 April 2015, 13:05
Four people have been arrested in Newcastle as part of a national operation into tackling human trafficking.
Around 5:50am this morning officers from Northumbria Police and the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) carried out search warrants at five addresses in Canning Street, Hugh Gardens and Brighton Grove.
Three Slovakian men, aged 30, 36,19, and one Slovakian women - who is 55 - were arrested on suspicion of trafficking people into the UK for exploitation and are currently in police custody.
The searches were carried out alongside partners from the local authority, HMRC, DWP, immigration enforcement, Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the Red Cross.
The action is part of a UK wide coordinated National Crime Agency (NCA) operation into identifying and arresting those responsible for human trafficking.
As well as activity in North East the NCA were also carrying out searches in the West Midlands, East Midlands and Leicestershire.
Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Winton Keenen said:
"This operation is a coordinated response to intelligence passed to the UK by Slovakian authorities regarding a labour exploitation network."
"Intelligence indicates that a significant number of Slovakian nationals have been trafficked to the UK and exploited, working for very little money and being controlled by individuals in the UK."
"It is a criminal offence to traffic people into the UK and it is an offence to force people, by threats or coercion, to work unpaid or to pay off a debt."
"Today's operation is all about protecting vulnerable people and the victims that we have identified today have been taken to places of safety and will be supported by ourselves and partner agencies."
"Officers will be out on patrol today in the west end of Newcastle to speak to residents and local businesses to tell them about today's operation and provide reassurance."
"If anyone has any information into human trafficking then I'd urge them to come forward and speak to police."
"This activity shows how seriously we take the issue and that we will take action when and where it is needed."
Caroline Young, Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency's Organised Crime Command said:
"Today's coordinated activity highlights the close collaboration between the National Crime Agency, local police forces, the Gangmasters Licencing Agency, Regional Organised Crime Unit and other UK partners, as well as our international partners, Europol and the Slovakian police, to investigate labour exploitation and human trafficking within the UK."
"These close working relationships help us to tackle the organised crime groups who think they can exploit people for profit."
"We will continue to work together, sharing intelligence and knowledge to hold offenders to account and safeguard victims."
Anyone with any information in relation to human trafficking offences can contact police on 101.
People can also pass information on anonymously by contacting the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The Salvation Army human trafficking helpline can also be contacted in order to report instances of human trafficking on 0300 303 8151.