A statewide effort to identify and stop human trafficking expanded regional task forces Tuesday into another six-county area.
The Multi-County Regional Task Force met for the first time in Aiken. The task force is part of the statewide Human Trafficking Task Force efforts organized by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
“We’re very excited about the expansion of the regional task force and we’re hoping to ultimately have them throughout the state,” task force coordinator Kathryn Moorehead said.
The Multi-County Regional Task Force covers Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties in western South Carolina.
Similar regional coalitions have been organized in the Upstate, Grand Strand, Lowcountry, and the Midlands. Click here for a map.
Moorehead said South Carolina is a ripe spot for trafficking activities, particularly for prostitution, due to its situation between known trafficking hubs in Atlanta and Charlotte.
“You think about the highways and the way people are traveling through South Carolina and the events that they’re drawn to, whether it be Bikers Week in Myrtle Beach or the Masters (in Augusta, Georgia),” she said.
Moorehead said the regional coalitions gather community leaders, law enforcement, businesses, healthcare and social services to identify the problem and find solutions for helping victims and prosecuting offenders.
“It’s the boots on the ground, is what’s happening at the regional level,” Moorehead said. “With direction from chairs who are actively engaged in the state level activities, it’s a great way to build a network throughout the state to share resources.”
The task forces have several missions for outreach, including educating students, businesses and the public on how to identify and report potential trafficking.
“As successful as the statewide Human Trafficking Task Force has been, I believe that to win this war on human trafficking we must conduct as much of the fight as possible at the local level,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.
Moorehead said legal innovations from the coalitions can provide pro bono services for victims and survivors and engage law enforcement and the healthcare industry to recognize them.
“The launching of this task force will provide an avenue for all participants to coordinate knowledge, skills, and resources in order to combat human trafficking in the areas that we serve,” Cumbee Center executive director Susan Selden said. “We have received positive responses from law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, schools, churches, and community members who are passionate about the potential we will have to bring awareness, education, and victim services to these counties.”
Top SC counties for human trafficking arrests, according to the SC Human Trafficking Task Force:
If you suspect human trafficking or you are a victim who needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BeFree).