Vulnerable people can be forced or coerced into begging or committing a crime or crimes which are for the financial gain of the abuser.
Criminal exploitation can take many forms, including: the drug trade, e.g. cannabis cultivation and drug distribution, begging, pick-pocketing, shoplifting, bag snatching, ATM theft, selling of counterfeit goods, benefit fraud and using personal accounts for money laundering.
Those targeted can include people with drink and drug abuse issues, poor mental health, learning disabilities or poor English language skills.
Homeless people are often victims of criminal exploitation.
Traffickers are known to exploit vulnerable individuals by approaching them in homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens with a view to recruiting them to carry out short term work under the guise of cash in hand payment.
In some cases, the recruiter may use drugs and/or alcohol as a means of control over the victim.
Traffickers also recruit potential victims from other countries into the UK with promises of work, money and a better way of life.
The reality is that they are forced into working, begging and stealing to fund the criminal gangs.
Groups of people of the same nationality can often be involved in criminal exploitation, working together to exploit people of the same nationality.
It is important to not take these crimes at face value, as the individuals may not feel they have any choice. Some victims may speak little or no English and will be unable to ask for help.
How to get help ?
We have worked really closely with the Luton Homeless Partnership and support their Big Change campaign, which enables people to donate to homeless services using new contactless donation points.
The Bedfordshire Anti Slavery Partnership is chaired by the Modern Slavery Helpline, which takes reports around all forms of criminal exploitation.