Three men, all believed to be victims of slavery, have been rescued following a series of raids in the Bristol area.
Eight properties were raided following an investigation into forced labour and human trafficking by Avon and Somerset Police and partner agencies.
Two people have been arrested on suspicion of slavery offences.
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Modern slavery is happening around us and I am pleased [agencies] have worked together to tackle and disrupt this abhorrent network of criminality”
Police and Crime Commissioner
Police said the three victims, aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s, have been taken to a safe house and are being offered professional treatment and support.
A spokesman said a significant quantity of money was also seized in the operation.
‘Statement of intent’
The raids were carried out at three travellers’ sites, a business unit, a house in south Gloucestershire and a residential property in Bristol.
Police said five other people were also arrested on suspicion of offences including cannabis production, money laundering and handling stolen goods.
The investigation was launched at the start of November after an intelligence operation by CID officers.
Ch Supt Julian Moss, head of CID, said: “This is an ongoing and dynamic inquiry – our primary aim is to safeguard and protect vulnerable victims.
“Some of those affected will not view themselves as victims and, even if they do, may have been unable to speak to the police or any other authorities for a variety of reasons.
“Today’s operation is a very visible statement of our intent to protect people from this type of exploitation.”
South Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, the National Crime Agency and specialist charities, such as anti-trafficking organisation Unseen and the Red Cross have all been involved in the operation.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said the operation “clearly highlights the unacceptable and illegal crime of human trafficking”.
“It shows that modern slavery is happening around us and I am pleased that the police, local authorities, and Unseen UK have worked together to tackle and disrupt this abhorrent network of criminality,” she said.