Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation (BAVEX) is the partnership campaign supported by a variety of different agencies across Bedfordshire to raise awareness of the exploitation that takes place in the county.
The campaign particularly focuses on those forms of exploitation linked to organised crime.
This includes child criminal exploitation through county lines, child sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation through things like forced begging, shoplifting or money laundering, sexual exploitation in places like brothels, labour exploitation in different industries as well as the cuckooing of vulnerable people’s homes.
Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation (BAVEX) campaign video
Serious and organised crime affects more people in the UK, more often, than any other national security threat. It leads to more deaths in the UK each year than all other national security threats combined, including terrorism. It costs the country at least £37 billion every year.
While serious and organised crime is an international issue, it has a massive impact here in Bedfordshire. The county’s population, demographics and transport links mean organised crime has a bigger impact here than it does in similar sized areas.
A major piece of police research with their partners estimates that more than £100 million is spent on cocaine and cannabis in the county every year.
Almost 400 victims of modern slavery were identified in Bedfordshire last year – the fifth highest of any police force area in England and Wales, that’s more than were identified in places such as Merseyside.
Organised crime is the driver for many other crime types, even if people do not recognise it at first.
Most firearms discharges in Bedfordshire are linked to the illegal drugs trade, as are many stabbings and other incidents of serious youth violence.
Anti-social behaviour is often by driven by illegal drugs, while many burglaries and incidents of shoplifting are either committed by organised crime groups or by people with addiction issues who steal in order to buy drugs.
We are increasingly seeing organised crime groups involved in fraud targeting our communities. Bedfordshire Police is also running a major operation targeting organised crime in Luton, establishing how these groups are involved in things like money laundering and widespread benefit fraud.
Tackling organised crime is everyone’s business. If we can stop organised crime, all of our communities would be a lot safer.
We are lucky to have the support of a wide range of different organisations, both statutory as well as charities.
This includes the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Council, Bedfordshire Police, the Bedfordshire and Luton Clinical Commissioning Groups, the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, Azalea, Crimestoppers, Link to Change, the Luton Homeless Partnership and the Modern Slavery Helpline.
We have worked with a number of local groups and organisations to produce and publicise videos and graphics which raise awareness of these issues among our communities, encouraging people to come forward with any information and for potential victims to seek help.
Childline is here to help anyone under 19 in the UK with any issue they’re going through. You can talk to them about anything. Whether it’s something big or small, their trained counsellors are here to support you. You can call them on 0800 111 or visit the Childline website to get support.
The NSPCC is the UK’s leading children’s charity, with help and advice for children, young people, parents and carers. Visit the NSPCC website to access a full list of their services.
Local charities FACES and Link to Change provide a range of support to help support children, young people and families to deal with things like violence and exploitation. You can visit the FACES website or visit the Link to Change website to get in touch with them.
Want more options for support? Then check out this guide to support services for parents on the VERU website.
The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner has also commissioned a whole host of projects and organisations across Bedfordshire which might be able to help. Please visit the PCC’s website for a full list of funded projects.