This week the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority published the Police and Crime Plan 2017-2021, setting out the priorities, goals and strategic direction for the Metropolitan Police Service over the next five years. Entitled ‘A Safer City for All Londoners’, the plan makes strong commitments to prioritise those most vulnerable to crime, improve services for victims and build greater confidence and trust in the Metropolitan Police Service. This represents a positive change from the previous plan’s target-driven approach, and is crucial to ensuring that victims of harmful crimes, including human trafficking, are able to come forward and report what has happened to them.
London has the highest number of victims of modern slavery of any UK region1, yet to date the Mayor of London has not published any strategy to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery crimes. The Mayor’s only strategy addressing human trafficking has fallen within the Strategy on Violence Against Women and Girls, which focuses on sexual exploitation. The new Police and Crime Plan takes the important first step of recognising human trafficking as an emerging problem which takes many forms and thus urgently requires a broader and more coordinated approach, both within the Metropolitan Police Service and in the wider London community.
FLEX has worked to improve the London response to trafficking for labour exploitation, engaging with agencies including the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Service to raise awareness of the complex and growing nature of this crime, and advocating policy and practical change to improve identification and meet the needs of its victims in the capital. It has been clear from our work with police that training of frontline officers and staff is needed, along with greater resources for support post-identification and more joined-up partnership working across London. These and other recommendations made by FLEX during the Police and Crime Plan consultation can be found here.
FLEX welcomes the Police and Crime Plan’s recognition of the ‘clear need for improvement in awareness and understanding [of human trafficking] for frontline officers’ and its commitment to ‘improve existing and encourage new multi-agency partnerships across London’ to tackle this problem. Plans to establish a partnership network across London and secure funding for training that will cover not only policing but also colleagues in health services and local government, promise a move toward much-needed consistency and collaboration across frontline agencies and other stakeholders working to identify and support victims of trafficking.
Though the Police and Crime Plan undoubtedly represents a growing awareness and a will to work together to address these issues, there is still a long way to go to ensure victims of human trafficking feel safe to come forward and are fully supported when they do. To this end, FLEX will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police to support efforts to increase identification and reporting of cases of labour exploitation. We also urge the Mayor’s office to ensure that the Mayor’s refreshed Strategy on Violence Against Women and Girls addresses labour exploitation, and to further develop a specific pan-London Strategy to tackle modern slavery in all its forms.
 NCA, 2015, NCA strategic assessment, the nature and scale of human trafficking in 2014, p.39. Notes: total excludes ‘oversees’, ‘unknown’ and ‘multiple’ locations.