A rising number of desperate human traffic victims have been discovered in the region.
Newly released figures show cases of the crime – which sees people forcibly trafficked across the world by criminal gangs – have risen by five in the Argyll and West Dunbartonshire area.
But the region’s top cop said this may be due to detection and support measures offered in West Dunbartonshire, as he moved to reassure the public.
Area Commander Chief Inspector Ryan McMurdo said: “In relation to the figures on human trafficking, the crime will be recorded where the victim has been recovered.
“The figures demonstrate that an increasing number of people who have been trafficked are being found within the Argyll and West Dunbartonshire division.
“It’s more a case that more people have been found here rather than there being evidence of human traffickers turning up in the West Dunbartonshire area.
“We employ a really victim-centred approach around human trafficking. There are really effective processes in place between the police and council social work to support victims of human trafficking.
“I suspect that we see more than our fair share of people turning up here because of our really effective support measures.”
We reported in 2017 how a 16-year-old boy kidnapped in Vietnam and trafficked through Russia was found cowering in a bush in Dumbarton.
The teenager escaped from smugglers passing through Scotland and ran for his life for an hour before being discovered injured and terrified by a member of the public next to Overtoun House. It is understood he was brought to the country to work as part of a crime ring.
In October 2019 police confirmed that a human trafficking victim, 21, turned up at Dumbarton Police Office and begged for help.
The south-east Asian man was given support.
Police were also alerted after a 16-year-old girl, also said to be south-east Asian, stopped a member of the public to ask for help the month before.
Speaking at the time Detective Inspector Ogilvie Ross said: “If you see someone short on money, struggling for food, are suspicious of the way they present and are unsure at all if someone may be a victim of human trafficking, you will not be wasting our time by calling us.
“We would rather be safe than sorry and protect someone from being a victim.”
Local crime figures also showed an increase of seven in crimes of abduction reported across the local area.
However CI McMurdo was keen to stress that abduction crimes didn’t relate to members of the public being snatched from the street.
CI McMurdo said: “The majority of the crimes listed for the abductions are victims being prevented from leaving a premises.
“This can be in a domestic incident, for example where one person prevents another from leaving – that would be recorded as an abduction.
“Of course it’s still a concern and something we robustly investigate. But it’s not the situation where people are being snatched off the street.
“The positive for me is that of, those seven abductions, five of them have been detected – meaning that someone has been charged with the offence.
“Through that process we are also able to provide support to the victims.”