COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) – One Midlands county found themselves on top of a list they didn’t want to be in Friday morning.
Richland County is No. 1 for human trafficking cases reported to the Human Trafficking Hotline, according to Polaris Elements.
The information came after a press conference from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announcing the state’s Human Trafficking Task Force annual report for 2018.
“Many people think human trafficking is something you only see in movies and I used to have the same perspective,” Wilson said. “However, it’s happening in communities across South Carolina. We sit between Atlanta and Charlotte, two of the biggest hubs in the nation for trafficking. The annual report details recent data supplied by the National Hotline, the efforts underway by the State Task Force to combat the crime and how we can continue to improve our approach moving forward.”
Richland County is followed by Horry, Greenville, Charleston and Beaufort counties. The task force also found the No. 1 venue for human trafficking in the state is through massage parlors, employers and intimate partners are the two biggest offenders and females are the most victimized.
“Young people are often targeted by traffickers,” said the Attorney General’s Task Force Coordinator Kathryn Moorehead. “We want to help better educate young people to ensure they are more capable of protecting themselves from these predators. It’s a serious crime that needs to be addressed in an age appropriate manner in our schools and youth serving agencies.”
The report said 13 new cases were charged last year, with three involving victims who were under 18-years-old. There were 64 cases closed last year and 20 human trafficking cases are still pending for this year.
Richland County has 52% of those pending cases, Horry and Lexington counties are at 10% and Greenville and Greenwood counties are at 9%. Laurens County and Berkley County each had 5% of the remaining cases.
The report also said there’s a lack of funding to support sufficient services for victims and survivors of human trafficking, but did say the goal for 2019 is to find grants and other funding sources to alleviate the problem.
There was some good news, however. South Carolina was the most improved state in the nation last year because state lawmakers broadened the definition of abuse and neglect within the child welfare system. This is because minor victims of sex trafficking now receive services through the Department of Social Services, according to the report.