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Owners of holiday homes and short-term rental properties in the south-west of England are being urged to check that their houses and flats are not being used as brothels. Avon and Somerset police said they were investigating 50 suspected brothels in residential settings such as holiday flats.
The force also said almost half of the intelligence reports about human trafficking and modern slavery it received in August centred on the exploitation of women and girls in off-street prostitution. Officers say brothels are being set up not only in Bristol and other urban centres but in the countryside. There have been reports of brothels being established close to the vast building site on the Somerset coast where the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is taking shape.
They are isolated and suffer terrible abuse. Many of the women are recruited and trafficked on false promises of legitimate work but find themselves in a very different circumstance. Slade said that when police carried out safeguarding visits to brothels, they often found women from the far east and eastern Europe who spoke no English and did not know the emergency services phone number.
As of September, the force had identified and was investigating 76 suspected brothels, 26 of which were in commercial premises such as massage parlours and the rest in residential properties. Slade said officers relied on landlords, property owners, hosts and neighbours to report suspicious activity. Operating from short-term and holiday rental properties instead of a permanent address makes it easier for those exploiting the girls and women to avoid detection. The properties can be easily booked online without the need for large deposits or for the tenants to meet the hosts during the stay.
If using an online booking service, we would always suggest that hosts check the profile of anyone requesting to book their property and read the reviews from other hosts.