Fenland Police Chief: What we discovered during Operation Endeavour is just the start of tackling exploitation

Chief Inspector Mike Winters.

Chief Inspector Mike Winters. - Credit: Archant

I am the police area commander for Fenland and I was also the Silver Commander for Operation Endeavour.

Multi Agency Police operation Endeavour. Wisbech.

Multi Agency Police operation Endeavour. Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

The visible part of Operation Endeavour received a lot of press attention at national and local level on October 15 and I want to now explain a little about why I did it and the magnitude of the invisible part.

Multi Agency Police operation Endeavour. Wisbech.

Multi Agency Police operation Endeavour. Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

I have worked in Fenland for many years in different roles and I have been a resident for 25 years.

I am very aware of the community issues and the often hidden criminality that sits behind the scenes. Over a long period of time Wisbech has seen changes that are related to migration and the working / housing conditions that immigrants tend to find themselves in.

The effects of these changes have become the norm for Wisbech and the vast majority of migrant workers are accommodated in houses in multiple occupation (HMO). This in itself is not a problem but some of the associated issues that then materialise become very visible and impact on the whole community, sometimes in a very negative way.

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Over a year ago we started Operation Pheasant along with Fenland District Council and the Fire Service. This was intended to really explore the core issues associated with HMO’s and improve the general environment.

What we discovered was startling in terms of numbers of such houses and the living and working conditions of many, but not all, residents.

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The operation continued for many months gathering a full picture of the lives of a lot of migrant workers starting from recruitment in their home countries to accommodation and work in Wisbech. A lot of people are involved in that journey and some appear to have taken the opportunity to exploit the people and the systems along the way.

That is what Operation Endeavour was and is about. It will tackle the exploitation and therefore tackle issues that force some of the migrant community into a life where unacceptable behaviour is a probable outcome.

The exploitation can be criminal but is certainly morally repugnant. The impact on Wisbech has not been good mainly due to those involved in the exploitation, not the exploited. As the case is obviously still ongoing I can not go into more detail.

We will not stop here, Operation Endeavour is ongoing and Fenland will see more activity along the same lines if these problems continue.

This I hope will be beneficial for everyone in Fenland.

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