A one-day conference looking at how to protect vulnerable children and adults against drug gangs and human trafficking has been hailed a success.

Today'sevent attracted up to 250 representatives from agencies which deal with County Lines, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

Held at the Self Build Centre in Swindon, it drew delegates from more than 50 organisations who came together under one roof to discuss the issues around drug gangs and Modern Slavery and how to spot the signs that a vulnerable person is already a victim or becoming one.

Sonja Leith, Head of Crime Prevention, from Wiltshire Police said: "Today's conference has been a great way for partners and agencies to come together to share knowledge and expertise.

"There's been a lot of energy in the room wanting to do that and we have achieved a lot - it's been very successful.

"The main aim of today was to inform delegates - those people who in their line of work may come across the types of people who are often exploited - of how to spot the signs of Modern Slavery and County Lines and what action they should take.

"Working with our partners means we can proactively disrupt these networks and to safeguard and protect those at risk of harm.

"County Lines and Modern Slavery is also society's responsibility - I would urge members of the public to be vigilant and look out for some of the most visible signs that drugs gangs are operating in neighbourhoods or anything unusual like numerous people living at one address. If it doesn't look or feel right report it to us - your call could save lives."

Detective Superintendent Jeremy Carter, Force Lead for Modern Slavery, said: “I am in no doubt that the knowledge shared from today’s conference will help shape the future of how we all work together to combat county lines and modern slavery.

“This isn’t an issue that can just be ignored or will just go away - it’s vital that we listen and take on board the views and concerns of each agency and come up with the best response to educate, act and protect the most vulnerable in society from harm.

“Tackling modern slavery remains a top priority for Wiltshire Police and I am pleased to say that we have seen a 47 per cent increase in intelligence reports on the previous year. This is a great first step but the public, local authorities and our own officers and staff must keep reporting any concerns and continue to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with this abhorrent crime.

“Together as a community we can eradicate slavery and trafficking in Wiltshire, and reduce the exploitation of the most vulnerable people.

"To report your concerns please call us on 101, or if you or someone else is in immediate danger call 999 straight away. You can also report anonymously via The National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 Or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: "Protecting the vulnerable is part of the Police and Crime Plan which I have to deliver and it is these very people who are being targeted by gangs and manipulative human traffickers - forced to deal drugs or enslaved to work for little or no money - that our police and partners need to protect.

"Recently the government allocated money to a number of police forces to tackle knife crime which is intrinsically linked to drug gangs.

"Wiltshire was not fortunate to have been one of those chosen forces despite having the same problem of County Lines as any other area. But we cope and I continue to lobby government for more financial help.

"Conferences like this are a wonderful way of bringing agencies together to share knowledge and expertise because an holistic approach to these crimes is the only way to deal with this problem.

"The causes and drivers of County Lines and Modern Slavery are complex, and so the solutions must involve a range of action from government, education, health, social services, housing, youth services, victim services and communities - exactly what this conference has reflected."

Tracy Daszkiewicz, Wiltshire Council’s director of public health, and chair of Wiltshire Community Safety Partnership, said: “Partners here today are clearly committed to tackling the risk county lines, human trafficking and modern slavery pose to our communities.

“We have done a lot of work to understand what makes individuals, families and communities vulnerable to exploitation and how we are working together to increase resilience and prevent people becoming victims.

"In Wiltshire our approach is community focused, and the work of our new Safeguarding Vulnerable People Partnership is centred on ‘Think Family, Think Community’.

“We all have a responsibility to safeguard vulnerable people of any age and working together we can make a difference.

"Today was about people impacted by criminal exploitation and experienced professionals sharing their knowledge and understanding with people across the county.

"This will help strengthen the workforce and communities through a shared approach to preventing, identifying and tackling exploitation.”

Cllr Jerry Wickham, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for adult care, public health and public protection said: “Wiltshire is a safe area and people may be surprised to hear that issues like County Lines that are talked about nationally can affect us here too.

“Partnership working is absolutely key to making sure young people and vulnerable adults are safe from exploitation. We want to strengthen and support our local communities and keep them safe from the devastating consequences of County Lines, organised crime and modern slavery.

"I was greatly encouraged by the clear focus shown by those who attended the event and we will harness that energy into tackling threats and making our communities safer.”

David Haley, Swindon Borough Council’s Corporate Director for Children’s Services, said: “Keeping our vulnerable children and adults safe is at the forefront of our work so sharing insight and knowledge with our partners on how to spot the early warning signs of County Lines or human trafficking activity is vitally important.

“But we must not stop there. It is important this expertise is shared with parents and the family members of vulnerable adults so they too can be vigilant of the signs of exploitation.

“This is one of the reasons why the Council launched its Report It Don’t Ignore It campaign with Wiltshire Police. It encourages all Swindon residents to report child abuse or exploitation if they suspect it is happening.

"We want residents to trust their instincts and, if they feel something is not right, they should not hesitate to contact us.

“Reporting is simple and can be done by calling 01793 466903 during office hours or 101 outside of office hours. Alternatively you can email: swindonmash@swindon/gov.uk More information on how to report can be found on our website: www.swindon.gov.uk/dontignoreit”