A 360% increase in the total number of trafficking victims was recorded in South Carolina in 2019. There was also an increase in the number of human trafficking cases reported in the state. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the release of the 2019 South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force’s Annual Report Friday.
“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.
Statistics and data are not well reported for human trafficking at both the national and state level, and that’s due in large part to the underground nature of the crime. State agencies and the South Carolina Human Trafficking Taskforce is working to change that.
In addition to the use of the National Human Trafficking hotline, state agencies have also entered strategic partnerships, to help raise awareness of the crime. One partnership is with the South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association (SCBWA). It puts signs on the backs of their delivery trucks showing the Human Trafficking National Hotline number (1-888-373-7888).
Another partnership, announced in December, is with the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (SCRLA) and Seattle-based nonprofit, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). Awareness training is now being taught to all SCRLA members and employees.
South Carolina’s unique location contributes to making it a central location for human trafficking, specifically in tourist areas. In 2018, Richland county ranked number one for human trafficking cases, followed by Horry, Greenville, Charleston and Beaufort counties. Friday, Wilson said data showed a change in the counties with the highest reported cases of trafficking.
“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 top county for human trafficking in South Carolina is now Horry County, followed in order by Greenville, Richland, Dorchester, and Charleston counties.
The 2019 report also showed a lack of shelter space to meet the needs of human trafficking victims, in South Carolina and across the country, specifically the need for increased services to support labor trafficking victims. Wilson also described an increase in these cases as well, noting in the report 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.
During Friday's press conference, Wilson urged communities; faith and education groups; as well as state legislators to adopt prevention education curriculum to better prepare young people.
"To our school officials, our school leaders, to our legislature here at the Statehouse who are coming up with policies and laws, getting the curiculum and the information to children in an age-appropriate way is so vitally important."
In 2019, the Prevention, Education and Outreach subcomittee of the Task Force, created a curricula chart that outlines curricula reccomentations as well as a written outline of recommended curricula for schools to review. This year, the subcommittee aims to create speakers bureau for general prevention education and community awareness.