Links between organised crime and hand car wash outlets in West Surrey have been targeted in operations by police and other agencies at six locations.
The 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.
The clampdown focused 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 or 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, which saw officers from the different agencies working together, four people were arrested and detained for immigration offences. A further three people have been placed on immigration bail pending further enquiries.
At the time of the raids, Surrey Police chief inspector Dave Mason said they were just at the beginning of an ongoing plan to tackle crimes linked to hand car washes.