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London cops focus on extreme porn, human trafficking

Under-reported, or over-egged?

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A new command within the Metropolitan Police service will have responsibility for policing extreme porn and indecent images of children as well as prostituion and human trafficking.

The creation of the unit is either a vital step forward in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation, or a serious waste of police resources, motivated by political correctness, depending on your point of view.

On 1 April, a new command was launched - SCD9, Human Exploitation and Organised Crime – bringing together expertise in the fields of clubs and vice, human trafficking and immigration crime.

According to the Met, this major new command will employ some 39 officers, under the leadership of Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin. SCD9 will in future bring together into one unit responsibility within London policing for:

- Trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude where there is a clear link to an organised criminal network

- The facilitation of human beings into the UK

- On and off street prostitution

- Obscene publications, extreme pornography and sharing of indecent images of children via the Internet

- Tackling violence and drugs supply within the night time economy

- Tackling violence within promoted music events

- Casino fraud and money laundering

- Identity document abuse

The creation of SCD9 – or technically its resurrection – is a victory for campaigners against the closure of its predecessor, the Met’s specialist human trafficking team.

This was to be shut down on the expiry of a strictly limited three-year funding period from the Home Office – and on the grounds that the lead agency when it came to trafficking would be the Serious Organised Crime Agency. However, representations by a number of charities, as well as concerns over a possible increase in trafficking during the 2012 Olympic Games, has led the Met to rethink its decision.

In an official statement DCS Martin said: "We know that people trafficking is still under-reported and we want to encourage any victims to come forward to help us prevent this horrific crime happening in the future.”

The Reg asked the Met what was the basis for investing serious resources in what many critics saw as a problem that had mostly been talked up by politicians – and how the head of SDC9 could "know" that a problem was under-reported.

In response, a spokesman for the Met told us that Home Office figures suggest more than 4,000 people are trafficked into the UK each year, the vast majority for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This figure has previously been subject to some serious questioning.

"The Metropolitan Police are currently conducting their own research to determine the scale of the issue in the London area," they continued. "At present SCD9 has 25 separate ongoing investigations concerning human trafficking."

In terms of resourcing, SCD9 draws from various parts of the Met, including:

- The Clubs and Vice unit

- The Human Trafficking Team

- Operation Maxim, which tackles and disrupts organised immigration crime in London, including human smuggling, human trafficking and counterfeit immigration documentation

- Operation Swale, a joint ACPO/MPS/UKBA unit, focusing on those who profit from smuggling and exploiting migrants to the UK, and foreign criminals who cause harm to innocent people as a consequence of their illegal activities.

However, according to the Met: "It is not possible at this time to determine the time and therefore cost employed in the particular areas of work".

As for the issue of under-reporting, the spokesman cited "the testimonies of victims who come to the attention of police, information provided by charities and non-governmental organisations, and figures from abroad concerning those who were trafficked into the UK and subsequently returned home without coming to the attention of UK police".

"By developing better links with our partners, ensuring we focus on the needs of trafficked victims and increasing our knowledge of the trafficking problem through intelligence-building, we hope to see an increase in reported cases and prosecutions against those who target some of the most vulnerable people in society." ®

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