PSNI/AGS operation into organised prostitution
30 May 2012
Police have released details of a major cross-border multi-agency operation, codenamed Operation Quest, against organised prostitution on the island of Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, PSNI officers visited more than 20 addresses across every county and searched a number of them in an operation which ran throughout yesterday (Tuesday 29 May). Police believe 10 of these locations were being used for the purposes of prostitution. The operation, to date, has resulted in:
• 5 arrests
• 3 suspected victims of human trafficking rescued
• Significant numbers of documents, phones and computers seized as well as cash.
The suspected victims have been taken to places of safety where they have been interviewed by specially trained officers and will be provided with the services of a support scheme funded by the Department of Justice, if deemed necessary.
The five suspects who were arrested are being interviewed at a number of police locations. A detailed examination of the documents, phones and computers is being progressed.
In the Republic, officers from An Garda Siochana also conducted a series of searches in three phases of operational activity. Further details of RoI searches are available from An Garda Siochana press office.
The officer leading the PSNI investigation, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall from Organised Crime Branch, said: “This joint policing operation between PSNI and AGS was conducted across all counties in Northern Ireland and all policing Regions in the Republic which indicates both the scale of the operation and the extent of the problem on the island of Ireland.
“The primary focus of this operation was to gather information and evidence on those individuals we believed to be involved in organised prostitution, money laundering and, in effect, organised crime.
“Our enquiries have established that prostitution was being organised on a cross-border basis so we have adopted a cross-border approach to tackle those organised criminals who are intent on making profits from vulnerable members of society.
“Police officers, and colleagues in a number of partner agencies, will also work to gather information and evidence in relation to human trafficking, given the exploitation of vulnerable individuals within the so-called sex industry.
“Anyone identified within the policing operation will be interviewed by specially trained officers to establish if they are potential victims of human trafficking and provided with specialist assistance from existing support networks within the respective jurisdictions.”
PSNI and An Garda Siochana officers involved in Operation Quest are being assisted by law enforcement colleagues from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Europol and the UK Border Agency.
Detective Superintendent Marshall added: “Police on both sides of the border will evaluate the results of this multiple search operation and continue to work closely together to tackle those organised criminals, in Northern Ireland and the Republic, who we believe are involved in organised prostitution and human trafficking. Further searches and arrests may follow in due course.”