Modern slavery is a form of exploitation where people have control over another person and force them to perform work or services. This, often hidden crime, can include:

  • being forced to work for an employer, often without pay
  • being held captive at a property and forced to perform domestic tasks
  • being owned by another person, or being bought or sold
  • being forced to take part in sexual activities (a form of sexual exploitation)
  • being forced into marriage
  • being forced to take part in criminal activities, such as transporting or selling drugs
  • human trafficking – this is where people are moved against their will to places where they can be exploited

People who are enslaved will often have restrictions placed on their freedom, may be denied access to money and possessions and experience, or be threatened with, abuse.

Modern slavery can happen to anyone, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, gender and age. People may be enslaved by criminal organisations or people close to them, such as family, friends, partners or employers. It is a hidden crime – the person being exploited may feel too afraid to tell anyone that they are being exploited, and their exploitation may be hidden from public view.

Places where modern slavery can take place include:

  • businesses such as car washes, nail bars and restaurants
  • construction sites
  • agricultural sites
  • hotels and rented properties – these might, for example, be used for sexual exploitation

Modern slavery and human trafficking is happening in Devon. Hotspots include the tourism and hospitality industries, nail bars and car washes. Hotels and holiday lets may be used to house people whilst they are being exploited. As a hidden crime, our knowledge of modern slavery happening locally is still developing. Everyone can do their bit to be aware of the signs and report concerns.

Signs that a vulnerable child or adult is being exploited could include:

  • Appearing to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to communicate with other people
  • Having no personal identification, such as a passport or identity card – this might have been taken by the enslaver
  • Having few personal belongings, wearing the same clothes or wearing clothes that are unsuitable for work
  • Appearing frightened, withdrawn, showing signs of being abused
  • Leaving or entering properties in the same way (for example always being picked up and dropped off in a vehicle), often at unusual times

Modern Slavery is happening in Devon – we all have a role to play in stopping it. If you are concerned that someone is being exploited help is available. 

What we are doing to help stop modern slavery and human trafficking in Devon

We work with local, regional and national partners to raise awareness of modern slavery within our communities, improve the reporting and understanding of the issue, reduce people’s vulnerability to being exploited, support and protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger contact 999.

If you are concerned about someone’s safety or welfare contact:  

Modern Slavery Helpline

Confidential 24/7 helpline for help, advice and information: 08000 121 700

Report information and suspicions online

Crime Stoppers

Anonymous helpline for reporting information and suspicions.

Helpline: 0800 555 111

Access the Crime Stoppers website

Devon and Cornwall Police

To report and seek advice about crimes, incidents and concerns.

Call: 101 non-emergency number

Report via the online crime reporting form

Victim Care Network

Directory of local support for victims of crime and exploitation.

Access the Victim Care Network website


Information, advice and support about modern slavery and human trafficking

Access the Unseen website

Stop the Traffik

Information, advice and support about human trafficking

Access the Stop the Traffik website

Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership

Information about child trafficking and modern slavery  and links to support.

Access the Devon Children and Families Partnership website

Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership

Information about the enslavement and trafficking of adults and links to support.

Access the Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership website