Sex slaves on your doorstep - Express & Star investigates people trafficking
The Express & Star today reveals the scale of prostitution across the Black Country and Staffordshire shining the spotlight on the trafficking of women enslaved for sex.
Our investigation found out of more than 400 women listed on a popular escorting website more than ten per cent come from countries notorious for human trafficking including Romania, Thailand and Hungary.
It comes just days after West Midlands Police raided a suspected brothel in Coventry uncovered by adverts on adult websites. Two men were charged with running a brothel.
The number of women claiming they have been trafficked into the West Midlands sex trade is also increasing every year with 11 up to September 2016 rising from just one in 2010.
Girls hidden in plain sight
Escort websites important to police inquiry
It feels dirty and wrong - a business transaction
But many victims are too afraid to come forward and cooperate with criminal investigations.
Out of 103 modern slavery crimes , which also includes labour exploitation and domestic servitude, reported to West Midlands Police and Staffordshire Police in 2015/16 only 12 arrests were made while no-one was charged.
Our undercover reporters have visited suspected brothels located in the Black Country, one in a typical residential street and another at the heart of a town centre.
The findings have been passed on to police for investigation.
West Midlands Police has declared sex trafficking is now a 'significant' priority issue.
But the force states prostitution on the streets is declining and most of the activity is moving behind closed doors.
Detective Inspector Nick Walton, the force lead on modern slavery, said: "We are now starting to see a diminishing market for street workers and an increase in the market for off-street workers facilitated by the internet.
"Modern slavery is a significant priority in the West Midlands and nationally.
"The numbers are increasing as is the level of operations around it.
"In 12 months we have gone from maybe one or two significant investigations to six, seven or eight. The main issue is the under-reporting of it.
"The victims perceive their life is actually better than it would be, or they have been coerced into doing it, or thirdly they are just too frightened.
"We know there are women who are brought into the UK, into places like Wolverhampton, from the likes of Albania and Romania, under false pretences but are then made to work as prostitutes.
"They are told 'we will hurt your families' if you don't play ball.
"Many that do come forward just want to be repatriated back to their home countries.
"They are not always willing to stay around long enough to support an investigation.
"As with any hidden crime we don't get the volume of intelligence like other offences. "
Det Insp Walton stated the fear now is that unregulated online escorting websites are masking the true extent of human sex trafficking into the West Midlands.
He said: "The concern is that escorting websites are being used to hide the trafficking of victims because there is less public scrutiny on them.
"Traditionally the public have been concerned around the sex market on the streets and that's what a lot of police work has been around.
"Meanwhile this online stuff has been growing and growing in the background without attracting attention.
"Sex workers nationally have never been seen as a priority but now it has come to the fore.
"We are doing more to understand these websites and conduct our own visits."
More to come all this week in the Express & Star