A WAR of words has broken out between police chiefs and a councillor over the extent of the crime of human trafficking in Inverclyde.

Councillor Colin Jackson raised the issue at a meeting of the Police and Fire Scrutiny Board after going public with his concerns in the Tele recently.

He had revealed how there was evidence of trafficking and exploitation within Inverclyde, with women being forced in to prostitution.

The Labour representative pinpointed two local addresses as fronts for the illegal activity, one in Port Glasgow and the other in Greenock's east end, saying Asian and eastern European women have 'been seen being taken in and out of these flats'.

Cllr Jackson added: "When I raised this with the authorities, I was also informed by police officers that they are aware of young women from the poorest parts of Inverclyde who are taken to Glasgow and other Scottish cities to work as prostitutes."

But when the topic came up for discussion at the scrutiny board police insisted it was not a major problem here.

Chief Inspector Debbie Reilly said: "We have carried out further investigations as a result of the article.

"I have spoken to the local community officers.

"There is an individual we know about but it is not at the level suggested."

Chief Superintendent Alan Murray also said the claims had been fully investigated and that there was nothing to suggest that it was a significant issue in Inverclyde.

He said: "There is nothing we have to indicate this was a particular problem in Inverclyde.

"I am not saying it's not happening, but we do not have the specific information.

"By the nature prostitution and human trafficking, it can be hidden."

Ch Supt Murray has now asked for a private meeting with Councillor Jackson to discuss the matter further.

Chief Inspector Reilly said the force will investigate any intelligence through its public protection unit, adding: "I would urge anyone with information to come to speak to us."

But Councillor Jackson says he is not satisfied with the response.

He told the Telegraph after the meeting: "There is an undeniable rise in human trafficking and exploitation in Scotland and to deny this is happening in Inverclyde could be very dangerous to the victims involved.

"As I pointed out at the committee meeting, the information given by the police does not fit at all with the evidence or opinion of anti-trafficking experts

"In evidence, experts on human trafficking describe 'tentacles of exploitation' where victims can be found in every town and city in Scotland, with many cases of labour exploitation identified as taking place in Inverclyde."

"If ever I hope I am wrong then it is on this issue, but all the evidence from experts contradicts that of the police."