Farnham: SC fighting Human Trafficking

human.traffickingIt seems the general public has a pre-conceived notion that Human Trafficking is a crime only happening in 3rd world countries with corrupt governments. While that is true, It’s also true that it occurs right here in the U.S. and our home state of South Carolina. However, SC is making strides in working to prevent this crime from growing any further and protect people who have been effected by it.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 children in the sex trade in the United States each year and According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 300,000 American children are at risk of falling victim to trafficking. Traffickers move victims around frequently to keep them isolated and under control. South Carolina is a trafficker’s ideal channel. Interstate highways including I-85 and I-26 connect major trafficking destinations. I-95 connects known trafficking hotspots of New York, DC, Atlanta, and cities in Florida. SC Law enforcement has been diligently uncovering more cases, and national and local tips have increased about possible trafficking on farms, in restaurants and nail spas, in areas such as Santee, Greenville, Greenwood, North Charleston, Charleston, Columbia, Conway, Myrtle Beach and rural areas of the State.
So, what is being done about it? House Bill 3757 is the most recent piece of legislation regarding human trafficking that passed the SC General Assembly last year. This legislation requires that all money, valuables, and property of a person convicted of human trafficking or felony extortion (labor trafficking) used in connection with, or gained from the crime, be forfeited to the State. Then, all of the proceeds from seized assets will go into a fund which pays for critically needed victim services including attorney and court-related costs, prosecution of traffickers and law enforcement investigative costs for human trafficking cases, costs borne by the state task force, public education and outreach on human trafficking. The bill was passed unanimously by the SC General Assembly and was put into effect December, 2012.
The state also started a Human Trafficking Task Force, which brings together law enforcement agencies, victims’ advocates and other state agencies. The task force works to prevent and prosecute these crimes. They are also a result of the law that Gov. Nikki Haley signed late last year.
Currently, in the Judiciary Committee is S.284. Senator Hutto sponsored this legislation requiring national human trafficking resource center hotlines in certain business establishments. It provides the language for the posting and a penalty for failure to post.
In February of this year, Representative Hardwick also sponsored a sister bill to S. 284, as well as sponsoring legislation to add the offense of trafficking to the State Grand Jury’s jurisdiction. (Specifically if the victim has been trafficked in more than one county or when the trafficker commits the offense in more than one county.)
For more information on Human Trafficking and what organizations and the government are doing to stop it, see the websites below.