THREE men have been arrested at a town centre car wash as a clampdown on modern day slavery continues.

Durham Police targeted Best Hand Car Wash on Yarm Road, Darlington, just after 9am today.

The three men, aged 21, 26, and 28, remain in police custody on suspicion of committing modern slavery offences.

More than 30 officers were involved in the operation combining the efforts of police, immigration officers, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

Five men found working at the site were taken to a victim reception centre where they will be supported by specially trained officers.

Detective Sergeant Tonya Cook, who led the operation, said: “As a force, we take allegations of modern slavery extremely seriously and are committed to investigating and tackling the exploitation of vulnerable people.

“It is really important that we get in the faces of these organised criminals and show people involved that we are here to help the victims.
“By using a multi-agency approach, we are able to show the victims of slavery that we are there to help protect them, which is why working with Red Cross is so important.”

The raid was supported by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), which detained the men on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act.

It forms part of Operation Sledgehammer, the force’s long-running campaign to tackle serious and organised crime.

Inspector Chris Knox said: “We need to get the message out to the public that this is a growing problem nationally. We are looking for the public to think carefully about where they spend there money, if they have any suspicions that staff are being mistreated they should contact the police immediately.”

Dave Powell, senior investigating officer for the GLAA, said: “Working in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers is at the heart of what we do and the GLAA is committed to doing all it can to help eradicate these illegal working practices that cause such misery.”

Following the raid, the premises was secured and further enquiries were conducted by representatives from the Health and Safety Executive, Trading Standards, North East Regional Special Operations Unit, Northumbrian Water and immigration officers.

Support was also provided by Darlington Borough Council and the British Red Cross, who worked in partnership with the police and GLAA to run the victim reception centre.

John Morris, British Red Cross director of independent living and emergency response in the North of England, said: “Our trained staff and volunteers were on hand to provide emotional support, as well as practical necessities such as clothing, refreshments and first aid.
“The Red Cross works alongside emergency services across the UK to help those in crisis.”

County Durham and Darlington Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Ron Hogg, said: “No one should have to suffer at the hands of gangmasters. I am really pleased to see the victims being brought to safety and given the advice they need.”

Anyone with concerns about modern slavery should call Durham Constabulary on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000-121-700.

  • Durham Police have clarified that the only car washing or valeting service in Darlington involved in this morning's operation was the Best Hand Car Wash on Yarm Road.