Hunting the Sex Traffickers: Channel 4 preview series
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In a three-part series titled Taken: Hunting the Sex Traffickers, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Peter Beard will take viewers behind-the-scenes as he follows a major operation into a crime group believed to be trafficking women into the UK from Brazil to be sexually exploited. The Channel 4 documentary was filmed over three years in the UK, Brazil and Spain as the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) swooped in to arrest Cheltenham sex trafficker Mark Viner.
Viner, who was the ringleader of the operation, was able to fund his lavish lifestyle in Spain by trafficking women from Brazil to work in a number of brothels located in the UK.
After three years of surveillance, undercover police were finally able to arrest him and he was jailed along with his associates, Lezlie Davies and Rosana Gomes.
Davies, 61, helped to set the trafficked women up on sex websites to sell their services while Gomes, 45, acted as a receptionist taking all their bookings and logging their income.
Police were only made aware of the sex trafficking in Cheltenham after letters, pictures, names and locations of the brothels were delivered anonymously to Gloucestershire police station.
Speaking to Express.co.uk and other press ahead of the documentary, Peter Brown, a senior investigating officer said initially his team were “pretty standoffish” with the Channel 4 filming crew when they first started filming.
He went on to admit it took him awhile to adjust to being filmed and followed around.
“Obviously, we were quite uncomfortable,” he began.
“Our team were pretty standoffish because it’s just not something we’re used to.”
He continued: “We’re obviously normally in the shadows and now we have two cameras in our car, so they were probably met with a bit of resistance.
“And ultimately that relationship developed over time and once we’ve worked out what they were all about it went well.”
The detective sergeant went on to discuss why he wanted to take part in the series and what he is hoping it will achieve.
He explained sex trafficking takes place much more in the public eye than people may realise.
We want the public to understand that, yeah, we all know drug dealing is a crime, but there is a lot of trafficking that takes place much more in the public eye,” he said.
“Whether it be the nail bars, the brothels, the car washes, or even the exploitation of workers in food factories.
“There are all sorts of trafficking and slavery that the public doesn’t see, and we want to open their eyes a bit.”
Detective Superintendent Tina Robinson, Head of SW ROCU, said despite letting film crews follow them around, there are still areas of policing they would be reluctant to show to the public.
She explained: “There is a lot out there in the public now and we want to demonstrate that we have those capabilities and that we can’t just pick and choose what we do.
“We are regulated and the way that organised criminals operate, it does require that extra specialist capability to go and tackle them and hunt them down and then obviously bring them to justice.
“What we want to do is inspire confidence in the public that we will go after some of these people who think that they can operate untouched.
“And clearly this area of criminality involving modern slavery and exploitation is a real threat to our communities.”
Taken: Hunting the Sex Traffickers returns on Monday at 9pm on Channel 4.
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