11 women and child rescued after police raid 17 suspected brothels in Luton
11 women and a child have been rescued following a series of police raids on 17 suspected brothels in Luton last night.
Eight people were arrested during raids at the addresses, all of which were suspected of housing brothels or of being linked to a wider organised crime network.
All of the rescued women, who were from Hungary and Romania, have been offered safeguarding support for victims of modern slavery.
A child found at one of the locations was also safeguarded through a police protection order.
Specialist support workers from Luton Council and local charity Azalea joined Bedfordshire Police, the National Crime Agency and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) on the operation, with more than 150 professionals involved in total.
A man in his 50s was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, while a man and two women in their 30s, as well as a man and a woman in their 20s, were arrested on suspicion of keeping a brothel.
The woman in her 20s was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
Elsewhere, a man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of money laundering, possessing a firearm and assaulting an emergency worker. Another man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm.
Inspector Jim Goldsmith, who led the operation, said: “Over recent months we have seen an increase in issues and intelligence linked to the off-street sex trade.
“This operation has potentially protected some incredibly vulnerable people from being exploited for the purposes of organised crime.
“Women in this industry are often lied to, coerced and abused, as well as being plied with drugs and subject to debt bondage in order to line the pockets of criminal gangs.
“We won’t stand for this and yesterday’s action was just the start of our efforts to dismantle the criminal networks behind these brothels and bring their ringleaders to justice.”
Ruth Robb, CEO of Azalea, which led the civilian response to yesterday's operation, said: "Last night's work was undoubtedly a massive success.
"We are huge believers in partnership working to address this problem and end the commercial sexual exploitation of women.
"This was a perfect example of such work, with the police, ourselves and other partners providing a holistic service to potentially protect vulnerable victims.
"We will continue to work with Bedfordshire Police and other agencies to stop this."
If you have information about a suspected brothel, please report it to police on 101 or via bedfordshire.police.uk/report
You can also report information anonymously via the Modern Slavery Helpline, on 08000 121 700.
Azalea is a local charity working with the victims of human trafficking. For advice or to report any concerns contact them on 01582 227303.