Investigators say Interstate 20 is a corridor for human trafficking
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -
There's a lot of traffic and precious cargo that makes its way along Interstate 20 and one group says there's also criminal activity along the highway.
While it's not often seen, law enforcement is still dealing with problems of human trafficking.
"People are being trafficked in the state of South Carolina and if you don't believe me go look on the Internet, go look on Backpage.com or Craigslist and see the advertisements out there," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The WellHouse, a non-profit fighting sex trafficking, claims I-20 and its truck stops are a hot spot for the activity. The crime is likely not what you think.
"Trafficking can happen in a community," said Wilson. "It can be done not just through kidnapping and actual physical force it can be done through coercion or blackmail or threats of force and its not always for labor and it's not always for sex it can be for both or either."
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center got 67 calls from South Carolina from July 1st to September 30th last year. Six were from Columbia.
One of the Midlands' first cases was in February 2007. Law enforcement was alerted by Mexican authorities to a 14-year-old runaway who called her sister saying she was being trafficked out of a mobile home on Sharpe Road.
Back then, SLED Director Reggie Lloyd told us, "Most people don't believe that this is going on, most people that have never seen it, never heard of it, so it makes it very difficult for them."
The signs are tough to recognize. The new task force is training witnesses to the crime. You may at least expect business license regulators.
"They see that child walking around half dressed they don't have the ability to intervene and ask questions," said Wilson. "They go tell law enforcement a day later people come back and the business is broken down and moved. So it's getting what seems like an awkward sign to that regulator, we need to some how close the gap.