A campaign launched by West Midlands Police to raise awareness of human trafficking is going down a storm on social media.
In a first for UK police, the mass social website Thunderclap is being used to encourage Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr users to share messages simultaneously through their personal accounts. Within hours of the campaign launching, the initial target of 100 shares was reached – with more than 125,000 people set to see the message when it is broadcast at 8pm on Friday.
The social media campaign has been launched as part of Operation Sentinel, a force-wide initiative set up to protect the most vulnerable members of society across the West Midlands.
Human trafficking is the second most profitable crime in the world, second only to drugs. It is also a growing crime in the UK with victims exploited in four main ways; forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and benefit fraud. Those who traffic people may do so by force, through coercion or by using fraudulent payment and promises of non-existent legitimate employment.
Human trafficking is often referred to as a ‘hidden crime’ because victims either do not perceive themselves as such or because they are unwilling to talk to police due to various reasons.
The Thunderclap campaign has been launched to raise awareness of this terrible form of crime and to encourage members of the public to come forward if they have any concerns or suspicions.
Some of the indicators that human trafficking could be taking place may include people living and working at the same address, people being constantly driven to and from premises rather than leaving on foot, unkempt appearance, isolation from the rest of a community and signs of injury or malnourishment.
Superintendent Tim Bacon, of the force Public Protection Unit, said: “Information from the community, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, can play a crucial role in tackling human trafficking. We’re really pleased with all the support that has already been received on social media, and would urge everybody to get behind the campaign to help make a difference.”
To join the Thunderclap campaign and to help raise awareness, social media users are urged to visit www.thunderclap.it