The annual 10km Stiletto Walk wound for four hours through West Croydon and Thornton Heath to Croydon town centre.
The walk was organised by Croydon Communities Against Trafficking and Your Community Against Human Trafficking, designed to raise the profile of human smuggling in Croydon, as well as alert members of the public to what to do if they spot signs of it.
Anna Arthur, a CCAT activist who organised the walk, told EastLondonLines that it is a fun approach to a very serious subject that has successfully reached out to people in the community.
She said: “The idea came from a stiletto run in New York five years ago organised by the charity Stop Child Trafficking Now, which was four hundred people running in stilettos at the same time, which they broke a world record for, and I thought what a fantastic idea.
“We had a great response. We dress up a bit, we have placards and people actually come forward once they have heard about it. I spoke to someone who took a contact number as she knew someone she suspected of being trafficked. We really felt like we had engaged with people.”
The illegal trade in humans is heavily connected to the sex industry but also trafficks foreign nationals into the UK to work as unpaid domestic workers or for forced marriages.
Peter Cox, CCAT’s chair, said that because human trafficking does not directly affect many people, councils and government often focus on issues more relevant to wider parts of the electorate – but keeping it in people’s minds is key to identifying and protecting the victims.
He said: “When they see what it’s all about about, they can see the point: it’s all to do with raising awareness, keeping it on the agenda, as it could slip. It really is going on, and some people don’t know what to do they spot something.”
CCAT and YCAHT members pose as customers to investigate establishments and pass information to police, as well as campaigning for public awareness. The group also organises Your Community
The group was previously involved in a campaign to stop the Croydon Advertiser from publishing adverts for ‘adult services’ from its pages.