Human trafficking: Increase in victims, local training events planned

The 2019 Annual Report on human trafficking in South Carolina was released on Jan. 10, and the numbers are not encouraging. Attorney General Alan Wilson reported a 360% increase in the total number of trafficking victims recorded in South Carolina as well as an increase in the number of human trafficking cases reported in the state.

Wilson said at the announcement at the Statehouse that there has been a shift from the previous year in the top five counties reported for human trafficking. The top county for human trafficking in South Carolina is now Horry County, followed in order by Greenville, Richland, Dorchester, and Charleston counties.

“The large increase in victims recorded speaks to efforts across the state to raise awareness of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number so victims know how to reach out for help,” said Attorney General Wilson. “We also recognize that the regional task forces are better educating members of their communities on the issue, which in turn causes shifts in the top five counties each year.”

The latest report details the efforts of the State Task Force to protect victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent human trafficking from happening in South Carolina. Attorney General Wilson welcomed representatives from state agencies, state and federal law enforcement, regional task forces, nonprofits, and communities across South Carolina to share in the report’s release.

“Three years ago our state maybe had two or three regional task forces and now this year there are nine,” said Brooke Burris, Chair of the Tri-county Human Trafficking Taskforce, that includes Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Included in the tri-county taskforce’s efforts is an initiative the train law enforcement and different stakeholders in the local area on what to look for when it comes to identifying those involved in trafficking. On Jan. 21 the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office will receive training as a part of grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It also really build a collaborative, holistic response so that we’re not only supporting the officers but also doing another resource for them in supporting the victim,” Burris said. “It really is a private public partnership with a lot of non-profits when a case is able to be brought and a victim feel stable enough.”

The Attorney General said in 2020, efforts will increase to ensure youth and young adults do not fall prey to those seeking to exploit them for profit.

Statewide strategies will be implemented to more effectively respond to victim needs as well as ensure incidents are promptly reported to law enforcement via the National Human Trafficking Hotline which is 1-888-373-7888.

Along with an increase in trafficking victims, Wilson described a rise in the number of labor trafficking cases within the state.

In its report, the Task Force announced a number of initiatives to combat this increase, including a 2020 State Task Force Labor Trafficking Roundtable hosted by the Attorney General’s Office and the development of informational materials in English and Spanish to increase awareness of labor trafficking, inform the public of its signs, and provide the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to potential victims.

For more information on the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force and to read the 2019 Annual Report, please visit humantrafficking.scag.gov or www.scag.gov.