SC reports 15% increase in human trafficking victims in 2021

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released an annual report Monday morning on human...
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released an annual report Monday morning on human trafficking cases in the state as South Carolina first lady Peggy McMaster looks on.(WIS)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 9:00 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 4:36 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the state is seeing a steady increase in the number of children identified as victims of human trafficking.

Wilson released the state’s annual report on the crime Monday morning in Columbia.

Charleston County fell two slots in the total number of human trafficking victims reported statewide last year, but it remained in the top five counties, a new report states.

“We saw a nearly 15% increase in the number of victims reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline,” Wilson said at a Monday morning news conference. “Additionally, we are seeing a steady increase in the number of children and youth who have been identified by [the South Carolina Department of Social Services] as victims.”

A deeper dive in the report shows that while Charleston County remained in the top five counties in the number of cases of human trafficking reported, it fell two slots to fourth place, behind Horry County -- which remained in the top slot -- and Richland and Greenville Counties.

Attorney General’s Office spokesman Robert Kittle said there were 121 cases reported in 2021, down from 129 in 2020. But the number of victims reported is up from 179 in 2020 to 206 in 2021.

The report listed the top five sex trafficking venues:

  1. Internet-based commercial sex
  2. Illicit massage/spa business
  3. Pornography
  4. Hostess/Strip club
  5. Personal sexual servitude (escort)

It also listed the top four labor trafficking venues:

  1. Hospitality
  2. Forestry/Reforestation
  3. Agriculture/Farm/Animal Husbandry
  4. Construction

Wilson said his office will kick off a prevention education initiative in 2022 which will offer year-round opportunities for young people to “become more aware of the complexities of the crime.”

The prevention campaign was designed for middle and high school students, youth-serving agencies, faith groups and child welfare agencies.

“As we seek additional resources to meet the needs of minor victims in our state, we must also try to protect those who have not yet been victimized,” South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator Kathryn Moorehead said. “The best approach is to educate young people through age-appropriate, comprehensive lesson plans.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story quoted Wilson as saying the state saw a 50% increase. That quote was corrected by the attorney general’s office after an inquiry into the raw numbers released later in the day which showed the increase was 15%, not 50% as originally stated.

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