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New police squad to tackle human trafficking at Games

SPECIALIST officers in human trafficking are being drafted in to tackle any increase in organised sex crime in Scotland during the Commonwealth Games.

A rise in prostitution is found during large sporting events such as the 2014 Games, which will attract one million visitors to Glasgow
A rise in prostitution is found during large sporting events such as the 2014 Games, which will attract one million visitors to Glasgow

With just under three months to go until the Glasgow 2014 games begins, a strategy designed to tackle sex trafficking and prostitution is being put in place, together with a campaign aimed at changing attitudes around violence against women.

High-profile sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics, have historically resulted in a spike in sex crimes because countries experience a large increase in population as athletes, officials and spectators visit host cities.

MSPs raised fears last year that the Games, which are expected to attract one million visitors to Glasgow, would lead to an influx of victims of human trafficking.

Senior Police Scotland officers say they don't expect an increase in criminal activity but have devised an action plan with the help of officials involved in the London Olympics. It includes having specialist human-trafficking officers on standby to quickly respond to any suspected cases. A campaign to make Glasgow a "White Ribbon" city ahead of the Games, which take place between July 23 and August 3, is also gathering pace.

The ribbon initiative aims to highlight all forms of violence against women, change attitudes and encourage men to speak out. Detective Superintendent Louise Raphael, of the National Rape Task Force and National Human Trafficking Unit, said: "We've obviously got a lot of people coming to Scotland from different countries with different laws so it's very important that we get a prevention awareness message out there.

"The recognition of Glasgow as a White Ribbon city would be an endorsement of the partnership effort to try and address gender-based violence."

Raphael said officers had formed a policing action plan with the help of London 2012 officials. "It would be very unwise for us not to engage with them as you would expect," she said. "It's a significant event that's about to hit Glasgow, but it's not just Glasgow. It will hit Edinburgh and Dundee, and other cities. It's a showpiece for Scotland.

"Probably the biggest concern that receives more attention than most is human trafficking and potentially an increase in prostitution. Both of these, as you would expect, we've thought about.

"In terms of the contingency plans, it's about making sure that our response, should we need to respond, is there and we're able to mobilise.

"We will have specialist human-trafficking officers who will either be on duty or on call who will be able to respond to anything - and they will be able to respond in quick time."

Callum Hendry, campaign co-ordinator of White Ribbon Scotland, said the charity was working with Glasgow as well as other Scottish cities to try to challenge attitudes toward sexual exploitation, prostitution, domestic violence, rape and other gender-based issues.

He said: "Men are the problem in terms of violence against women. An attitude survey that we published last year still shows that one in three young people still believe that it can be a women's fault that she's raped in certain circumstances. With that attitude you're excusing violence against women and blaming the victim.

"We need supporters and men we work with to talk about this issue and realise it's a human rights issue and not just a women's issue.

"It's still difficult for a lot of men to talk about. If you're at work and somebody makes a racist or sectarian remark you're much more likely to see this challenged than if somebody makes a sexist remark."

Rape Crisis Scotland co-ordinator Sandy Brindley welcomed the initiative, saying: "Scotland is at the forefront of working against violence against women and it'd be great to see Glasgow being at the forefront of challenging attitudes, particularly with the Commonwealth Games coming up. We're really supportive of the White Ribbon campaign and efforts to involve men in challenging violence against women."

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