POLICE have launched new efforts to tackle human exploitation in West Swindon by targeting businesses in the area.

Last week the neighbourhood policing team and detectives from the human exploitation team with Wiltshire Police carried out intelligence gathering operations around Rodbourne Cheney.

It was the first in a series of new bids to investigate human exploitation in the town, and focused primarily on car washes.

Some cases of low pay were discovered, and officers are now working with employees and businesses to work through some of the issues.

PC Steve Yeates, beat manager for Toothill and Freshbrook, was involved in the operation, alongside detectives and local PCSOs.

He said it is important to begin constructive talks with any potential victims and to tap into that community which can often be overlooked.

“We have had an operation with the human exploitation team run by detectives alongside local officers,” he said.

“Last week they worked with the West Swindon neighbourhood policing team, and that involved going to car washes and working with people employed there.

“There is an underlying motivation to some of these cases. One (person) we were talking to was from Bulgaria and had worked as a vet in his home country, earning just £1 an hour. That would be the wage for a vet but in this country he is cleaning cars for £4.50 an hour.

“Some businesses can exploit these people by taking their passports away from them when they get to this country, forcing them to work in the UK.

“We have gone in to these businesses to give them the opportunity to talk to us and get some support. We reflect all parts of the community and this is a very hard-to-reach group.”

PC Yeates said all aspects of exploitation need to be investigated thoroughly, including making inroads with the victims and understanding their situations.

“The majority of the issues encountered were payment issues rather than the more severe aspects of human exploitation, but we need to be able to look after these people as well,” he said.

“They are hard working people and they need our support to do that work and be paid properly.”

Det Sgt Rob Findlay, of the human exploitation team at Wiltshire Police, said: “We have been working with neighbourhood policing teams locally on intelligence gathering operations surrounding human exploitation.

“During the recent operation in West Swindon we found some issues of low pay and we are working with the employees and businesses as part of the ongoing series of operations. ”