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Police And Immigration Teams Swoop On Hand Car Washes

Published on: 24 Nov, 2014
Updated on: 24 Nov, 2014

A multi-agency operation to tackle potential criminality associated with hand car wash outlets in West Surrey has been carried out at six locations, including one in Walnut Tree Close, Guildford.

Surrey policeThe initiative, Operation Arras, is the first one of its kind in Surrey and aimed to target the problems of human trafficking, servitude, money laundering and unsafe practices; all of which are associated with organised crime which is known to have links with hand car wash centres nationally.

The operation on Friday, November 21, saw staff from Home Office Immigration Enforcement, National Crime Agency (NCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), local councils and Surrey Police join forces in an intelligence gathering and public protection initiative.

In a statement from Surrey Police, it says the clampdown focussed on establishing the status of workers at the locations, to see if any were victims of human trafficking or were being exploited, through slavery, poor living conditions or low and non-existent wages. Enquiries were undertaken to find out if the establishments were operating safely and legally and not as a ‘smoke screen’ for associated criminal activities.

As a result of the checks, four people were arrested and detained for immigration offences. A further three people have been placed on immigration bail pending further enquiries.

Paul Smith, head of the Thames Valley and Surrey Home Office Immigration Enforcement team, said: “We are determined to tackle all forms of illegal working across Surrey and this operation shows that we will not ease up in combating immigration crime.

“Illegal working is not a victimless crime. It cheats the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and exploits some of society’s most vulnerable people.It also starves legitimate job hunters of employment opportunities.”

Surrey Police Chief Inspector Dave Mason said: “Many hand car washes are legitimately run, and I would like to thank those car wash operators who co-operated with us. Those sites that aren’t operated legally can have a significant impact on our communities and it is our duty to keep people safe from harm.”

He added that the raids are just the beginning of an ongoing plan to tackle crimes linked to hand car washes to keep communities safe.

Cllr Richard Billington, lead councillor for community safety and health at Guildford Borough Council, welcomed the operation and said: “The aim of the activity was to make sure people at these hand car wash sites are working legally and to make sure the premises were safe. It also serves to highlight the possible different ways in which vulnerable people can be exploited.”

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