HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Growing task force fights to prevent the crime in the Palmetto State

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force has been working over the past decade to prevent the crime and has been growing as it has done so.

Recently, a task force investigation resulted in the arrest of multiple individuals for crimes related commercial sex.

ABC Colombia’s Alex Tejada has more on this and how the task force plans to continue the fight to end human trafficking in the state.

“These things are happening across the state, across the country, constantly,” said Lt. Jade Roy of the SLED Human Trafficking Unit.

“South Carolina sits nestled between two of the top hubs for human trafficking activity in this country, Atlanta and Charlotte. You look at the I-95 corridor, I-77 and I-85,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson.

It was along one of these corridors that the state’s human trafficking task force arrested 13 individuals. They were charged as commercial sex buyers and often faced additional charges for either drugs or weapons.

“We are attacking the demand, the very reason that creates the market for human trafficking in our state,” Wilson said.

One of those involved in tackling the crime says the victims often know the trafficker and are stuck in the situation because they are being manipulated.

“You probably know very well the person, people or organization that is doing this to you. I’m telling you, you can get out,” said Chief Doug Wright of the Summerville Police Department. 

The task force urges the public to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking, which can be a number of suspicious activities or circumstances. 

“If it’s just ‘Hey, I was at a gas station and saw a car that didn’t look right’ or if the people getting in and out of the car didn’t look right to you. Those things are important,” Roy said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit of things adding up.”

Human trafficking is not just sexual in nature or involving illegal drugs. The task force says one of the most difficult forms to spot is labor trafficking.

“These are some of the hardest investigations you can work. A lot of that is because folks don’t realize they are being trafficked,” Roy said. “They are going to work every day like you and I are.”

The force says the success in arresting commercial sex buyers is thanks to the collaboration among the team. It has this message for sex traffickers still out there in the state.

“If you are one of these traffickers and you are trafficking people, you will be found, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in South Carolina,” Wright concluded.

Categories: Local News, Richland