Four people from Watford have been arrested during an operation to tackle the sexual exploitation of trafficked individuals.

Hertfordshire Constabulary had been taking part in Operation EMPACT last week (September 16-22), with the force carrying out activities focusing on victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Its modern slavery unit visited eight business addresses across the county; four in Bishop’s Stortford, three in Watford and one in Hemel Hempstead.

Four arrests were made at two addresses in Watford in relation to immigration matters and safeguarding advice was given to several individuals.

Those arrested were three women from Watford aged 30, 32 and 37-years-old. A 32 year old man also from Watford was also arrested.

The Constabulary had been supported during the operation by its Operational Support Group, as well as regional partners from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, NHS Safeguarding nurses, Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, Immigration and Border Control and the British Red Cross.

Detective Sergeant Jill Green from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Tropic said: “As the number of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking grow in the UK, there is more potential for these vulnerable people to be exploited sexually.

“These weeks of action are an important tool for all of the agencies working together to identify and rescue trafficked and exploited individuals. In many cases it is difficult to obtain evidence that a crime has been committed, as victims are reluctant to cooperate with police.

“These operations enable us to speak to the individuals and get them help. Victims can be anyone, from people living on the streets, vulnerable children and adults, to even people trafficked into the country who speak little English.

“As part of the drive to combat modern slavery, trafficking and exploitation we are keen to raise awareness of this little understood issue and urge people to be vigilant and report anything they consider suspicious.”

Hertfordshire Constabulory also gave advice to spot the signs of sexual exploitation, including:

• Sex workers may appear scared or intimidated

• The individual may be transported to and from clients

• Individuals may be closely guarded

• The person may be 'branded' with a tattoo indicating ownership

• Sex workers may show signs of physical abuse, including bruising, scarring and cigarette burns

• The individual may be unable to keep payment and may have restricted or no access to their earnings

• The person may have a limited English vocabulary, restricted to sexualised words

• Multiple female foreign nationals may be living at the same address

• The person may sleep in the premise in which they work, which could indicate a brothel is operating

• A property might have male callers day and night who only stay for a short time there

Anyone with concerns about human trafficking or modern slavery should call police via 101 or the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999. The Beacon hotline 03000 11 55 55 is open from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm or visit the website: for information and advice to access support.