THIS week, Craig Borland reacts to the news that a victim of human trafficking was found in Helensburgh after escaping from a house in the town.


ONE of the many things that’s great about Helensburgh is its relatively low crime rate.

There is no doubt that compared to most other towns within reach of Glasgow, Helensburgh is a safe place to live; when he became Helensburgh and Lomond’s police inspector a year ago, that was one of the first things Roddy MacNeill said.

So when crime does happen, it gets plenty of attention. We know that from watching the audience figures on the Advertiser website: day in and day out, crime and court reports attract our highest audience figures.

I suspect it’ll be the same over the next few days, thanks to our report this week on the discovery of a human trafficking victim in Helensburgh.

The 15-year-old Vietnamese girl seen running away from police in Sinclair Street last Wednesday night – having apparently escaped from an as-yet-unidentified house in the town – is the fourth victim of human trafficking to have been found in Helensburgh in the last three years.

READ MORE: 'Trafficking victim' found as Helensburgh raid uncovers £80,000 cannabis farm

Two were found at a nail bar in the centre of the town within months of each other in 2017, and another was discovered in a raid on a house in Kirkmichael in October, which also uncovered an £80,000 cannabis farm.

Those might not quite be on the same scale as the horrific discovery of the bodies of 39 Vietnamese people, all of them suspected trafficking victims, in the back of a lorry in Essex in October, but all are sobering reminders that Helensburgh is far from immune to the vile behaviour of the unscrupulous gangs who trade in human life for their own financial gain.

The standard advice to the public is that if you suspect you’ve seen signs of human trafficking, you should report it to the police. And I’m sure most of us would do just that.

Having said that, few of us wants to get a reputation as a curtain-twitcher – or, worse, as a grass. No law-abiding citizen wants to think that their neighbours are keeping a suspicious eye on them.

And we’ve all heard the laments about how people no longer look out for the welfare of their neighbours, often for fear of being labelled as nosey, and the dramatic increase in loneliness that results.

READ MORE: Second trafficked teen found by police at Helensburgh business after raids by authorities

But being alert to the signs of potential criminal behaviour is another thing altogether. The trafficking victim who came to the attention of police last week appears to be something of an exception, in that very, very few such victims manage to escape without help.

Crime is not always easy to spot. Something that appears suspicious in the eyes of one person may seem perfectly law-abiding to another. But no crime is ever completely hidden from public view.

So I can only echo that advice from the authorities: if you do suspect you’ve seen the signs of human trafficking, please contact the police. Without your help – our help – these vile crimes cannot be tackled, and these victims cannot hope to be helped.

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