Two Leamington women have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to manage and control brothels as part of a joint operation led by Warwickshire and West Mercia Police.
Detectives from the Serious and Organised Crime Units of both forces supported by the National Crime Agency raided properties in Warwickshire, Reading, Slough, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, London and Torquay between Tuesday and Thursday.
They believed the properties were being used as brothels.
The women, aged 38 and 40, were arrested along with a 54-year-old man and a woman aged 40, both in Nuneaton, and a 55-year-old woman from Blackpool.
Det Chief Insp Ally Wright of Warwickshire Police, who led the investigation, said: “Prostitution of this type is a sophisticated and organised crime and there could be a number of vulnerable victims, many of whom may have been trafficked into the UK illegally and made to work in the brothels to pay off their debt to the traffickers - amounting to modern slavery.
“In some instances the organised crime groups may threaten and intimidate many of the women working in the brothels who in turn may have a fear of cooperating with police and law enforcement agencies.
“The investigation team worked with the National Crime Agency and The British Red Cross and ensured that victims had access to interpreters and were treated sensitively and with compassion.”
Det chief insp Wright added: “The actions this week are the latest in a coordinated police operation throughout the UK targeting ruthless organised crime groups that use and abuse vulnerable women to make substantial profits.
“Searches carried out recovered a significant number of phones, cash and banking materials which will allow officers to examine the structure and hierarchy of this organised crime group.
“We urge any potential victims to come forward so we can offer them the best possible protection and support and police will continue to work with partner agencies to disrupt and dismantle these groups.”
Liam Vernon, the head of the National Crime Agency’s UK Human Trafficking Centre said: “Modern slavery is a crime that exploits the most vulnerable people in our society.
“We are committed to working with criminal justice partners to pursue the criminals involved in this vile trade in human misery”.
Anyone who has any information can contact police or Crimestoppers, where you can report information anonymously on 0800 555 111 or by visiting www.crimestoppers-org.uk
A campaign has been launched which aims to encourage the public to identify the signs and report on modern slavery by calling a new national helpline – 0800 0121 700 or via the website modernslavery.co.uk