Human Trafficking Report Shows South Carolina “Most Improved” State in the Nation
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)– South Carolina is being recognized nationally for making some major improvements when it comes to combating human trafficking. Attorney General Alan Wilson said South Carolina was recently recognized as the most improved state in the nation for combating human trafficking. According to the Human Trafficking Task Force annual report, there were 13 new cases charged last year and 64 cases closed. Already in 2019, there are 20 human trafficking cases pending, bumping the state grade from a C to a B.
“So we have a long way to go, but we have made so much progress, especially in 2018 and that’s a lot of momentum carrying us into 2019,” Jennifer Thompson said, the CEO of Lighthouse for Life.
Richland County leads the state for cases reported to the National Human Trafficking hotline, but those on the task force say that is a positive result because it shows people are more aware of the issue and are reporting it more often.
“This isn’t hollywood. Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in Europe, or Asia, or third world countries. It happens here in South Carolina and it can happen on your street,” Wilson said. Wilson also shed light on what still needs to get done. According to the report, there s still a lack of funding for survivor services.
“We’re really focused on not only building services for victims. We have a huge gap, we’re lacking in that area in South Carolina. We don’t have enough placements for children and adults,” Kathryn Moorehead said, the coordinator for SC Human trafficking Task Force.
With the 2019 Legislative session in full swing, they hope more positive changes are to come. Starting with a safehouse for sexually trafficked minors opening in the Columbia area soon.
“I don’t really have a lot of chances to just pause and celebrate how far we’ve come because sometimes you’re always like, ‘we’ve got so far to go,’ but indeed I am happy but I’ll be more happy when we bring survivors across the threshold of the home,” Thompson said.
“They are a slave. Slaves don’t think they have options. So letting them know, if they’re listening to me right now, there’s an organization outhere that can help them get out this lifestyle is what we’re trying to do,” Wilson said.
During the press conference, the newly sworn in Lt. Governor Pamela Evette read a proclamation from Governor Henry McMaster announcing the whole month of January is dedicated to human trafficking awareness.
“This is not something that just affects a small section of people. Anybody can be a victim. Every mom, every dad in the state, we worry every time our children walk out of the house,” Evette said.
Attorney General Wilson said the biggest hurdle is getting the funding for these programs and resources to help put a stop to human trafficking, but he is hopeful with the Governor and Lt. Governor’s support they will be able to get an A ranking next year.