We must protect people from hidden harm
I am delighted that an Essex Police investigation has led to the first conviction for human trafficking in our county. Gheorge Negreanu was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for intentionally facilitating travel of a person with a view to their sexual exploitation, plus three years in jail for controlling prostitution for gain and for managing a brothel to run concurrently.
From April this year, my Police and Crime Plan for Essex now makes reducing hidden harm a specific area of focus for Essex Police. Hidden harm includes crimes such as elder abuse, human trafficking, modern slavery, sexual violence, child sexual exploitation and ‘honour’ based abuse. Precisely because these crimes are hidden, we do not know their scale nationally or in Essex. But we know that such crimes are happening here in our county. The suspected trafficking case involving Afghan Sikhs in Tilbury last year was, sadly, probably just the tip of an iceberg of human suffering and harm.
At one level, it feels extraordinary that we have Romanian traffickers running a brothel in Maldon. But this again starkly demonstrates that such crimes can happen in the heart of our communities. I have seen the national research and, in addition to international trafficking, the intelligence suggests – shockingly – that the third most trafficked group of people are English girls for sexual exploitation.
If you suspect hidden harm is happening in your community, please report this to Essex Police or Social Services, or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex