Conference looks to tackle human trafficking troubles in Midland - - Columbia, South Carolina

Conference looks to tackle human trafficking troubles in Midlands

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)

South Carolina is working on confronting a problem that came to light in our state in the last couple of years: human trafficking. 

Experts in different fields came together Monday to discuss what it will take to beat it. 

Day one of a conference wrapped up at First Baptist Lexington, focusing on prevention and education -- one of three big objectives for tackling human trafficking in the Midlands. 

Richland County's Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force teamed up with Amber Alert and several other local law enforcement agencies, DSS representatives, therapists, and foster families to attack sex trafficking with a multi-disciplinary approach. 

While long recognized on a global scale, it's a problem that just became a high priority in the Midlands in the last couple of years. Part of that includes recognizing victims in a distinct class of their own.

Experts believe human trafficking has a unique victim/offender status. Sometimes victims aren't seen as "good enough" and offenders aren't deemed "bad enough," meaning law enforcement must take an all new approach. 

"I don't think we can have a real grasp on it," Lt. Mary Yturria of Richland County Victims Services said. "We know it exists. We do some outreach. We do some preventative stuff. We do some operations to try to get the victims to come forward, but I don't really think we know. I think it's much greater than we know." 

Globally, the International Labour Organization estimates that there are 21 million victims of human trafficking and that 1 in 5 endangered runaways are victims. Right now, there's no hard data showing how big the problem is in South Carolina. 

Of course, that creates challenges for those here today in both raising public concern and getting the resources they need to help victims. 

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