Staff at a car wash firm were quizzed by police tackling modern-day slavery.

Officers and immigration officials moved in on the Shiny Hand Car Wash, on Warwick Road, Carlisle.

No issues were discovered at the business, with the operation taking place as part of a drive to tackle awareness about issues surrounding immigration and working practices.

The firm was closed off while workers were spoken to.

Detective Inspector Craig Smith said the purpose of the visit was to safeguard people working at the car wash, make sure they were working legitimately and were not being exploited.

He said: “A total of 15 people were spoken with during the visit. They included a mix of men and women.

“No offences were identified regarding modern day slavery legislation and no offences were identified in terms of immigration offences.”

The activity in Carlisle – intently watched by those passing by – was the first visible sign of the campaign against the likes of human trafficking, an issue police have stressed is not just an issue for major cities.

A number of other operations are expected across the county as agencies raise awareness and try to act on suspicions raised with them.

In Cumbria, between September 1, 2015, and August 2016, 31, there were eight offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

DI Smith highlighted three cases from the past year:

  • A human trafficking offence where a child was illegally brought into the UK. Police introduced safeguarding measures and worked with Cumbria County Council’s Children’s Services on the issue
  • An allegation of a modern slavery office involving a woman who worked for a family for three-and-a-half years
  • Pop-up brothels where people rent premises temporarily over a weekend or short period and offer prostitutes.

Police are working agencies including the Immigration Service, Health and Safety executive, Customs and Revenue and council as part of their efforts to tackle and highlight concerns surrounding the issue.

Related: Police and immigration officers at Carlisle car wash

Potential victims, experts say, include those who appear scared and withdrawn, with unexplained injuries, who may live and work in the same place, with no access to passports or documents, is distrustful, has poor hygiene and has an unkempt appearance and speaks little English.

Concerns can be reported to Cumbria police by calling 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555111.