COLUMBIA, SC — Attorney General Alan Wilson had a message for human traffickers during an afternoon meeting regarding the state’s new plan to combat human trafficking: “We are coming for you.”
In 2012, state legislators implemented new measures that strengthened human trafficking laws within South Carolina. The law mandated that an interagency task force be created and headed by the Attorney General’s Office. The task force created the South Carolina State Plan to Address Human Trafficking, a 58-page document that outlined a plan to initiate action combating human trafficking in the state. An executive summary outlined the five main topics regarding the implementation of the plan.
Wilson said the task force, composed of 18 state, federal and non-government organizations, is a lot like the invasion force that landed in Normandy on D-Day 70 years ago.
“It takes an army to fight an army,” Wilson said. “It’s a lot of strategic, tactical and logistical coordination. It is not easy to fight an enemy that doesn’t wear a uniform, that you can’t see.”
According to the Attorney General’s Office, there is little data known about human trafficking in South Carolina. However, Wilson said human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, second only to drug trafficking.
“The U.S. is the highest country of destination for human trafficking,” Alan said. “It is a $32 billion a year industry. That’s massive.”
According to the research group, Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to fight human trafficking, there were 20,652 calls made to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in 2012. Of those, 233 came from South Carolina. The S.C. cities with the highest volume of calls included Charleston, Columbia, Greenville and Myrtle Beach, which recorded 52 calls in 2012.
The plan said “human trafficking statistics are presently scarce,” because there is a lack of awareness about the crime and there were “misconceptions about the definition of human trafficking.”
“Human trafficking is real, it is happening. I want everyone in South Carolina to know that not only is it real, but that it could be happening in your community.”
Among the nongovernment agencies at Thursday’s meeting were representatives from the Columbia chapter of Zonta, an international organization started by the United Nations to advance women worldwide.
Zonta members say the state’s plan to address human trafficking will benefit from being in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office.
“It is going to raise real awareness. There are many people in South Carolina who believe that we do not have a human trafficking problem,” said Judy Barnes, a Zonta member. “I think that by having the Attorney General address this and having a plan, more people will become involved and we can stop this in South Carolina.”
Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8305.