TWELVE men have been arrested in an anti-slavery sting dubbed ‘Operation Fuel’ after three days of activity on a Southampton street.

Residents reported seeing up to 16 police vehicles on the residential road in Portswood, with cars, forensics and vans stationed at the address until yesterday afternoon.

Police said they have launched a rape and “modern-day slavery” investigation after a young woman approached them with allegations.

One man, who did not want to be named, said he came home to find the vehicles outside the house on Avenue Road at around 9pm on Tuesday.

He said: “There were about five cars, then six. I heard police on the walkie-talkies.”

A father living on the street said he was “very surprised” at the level of police presence, and added: “We’ve lived here for 30 years and never seen anything like it here. We’re a close-knit community and everybody knows each other.”

He added: “Those flats used to have students in but there are so many people coming and going there now. We’ve never heard anything like this.”

Avenue Road resident Ally Hayes said she and her neighbours had been asked by police when their bins had been last emptied.

A student sharing a house a few doors down added: “Usually if we hear something we assume it’s a party.”

A spokesperson from Hampshire police said: “We are conducting enquiries at two addresses in Avenue Road, Southampton, in connection with a rape and modern-day slavery investigation.

“A 19-year-old woman made a report to police on Tuesday, July 18.

“We have arrested 12 men from Southampton in connection with the investigation; they remain in police custody.

“Initial enquiries suggest there is no threat to the wider community.

“Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting Operation Fuel.”