CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – The Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force met Thursday at the Charleston County Government Building to hear about new research gathered over the past three years on human trafficking. human beings, especially in the Lowcountry.
Established in 2018, the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force works to bring together people from different backgrounds in response to this issue.
Citadel Criminal Justice Professors and Task Force Research and Data Subcommittee Chairs Kristen Hefner and Leslie Hill presented new data on human trafficking in the region.
“Due to the hidden nature of these crimes, it is important to triangulate the data and extract it from as many places as possible to help get a clear picture of human trafficking in our region,” said Hill.
Between 2015 and 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded 102 trafficking victims in Charleston, 31 in Dorchester, and five in Berkeley.
According to Hefner and Hill’s research of law enforcement data, 25 individual cases of human trafficking arrests or calls for service have been recorded from 2016 to the present. Appeals and cases are handled by the North Charleston Police Department, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Summerville Police Department, and Charleston Police Department.
The same data reflects the type of premises being hotels 40% of the time and residents 16%. The cases were discovered by patrollers 44% and service providers 12%.
Of the victims, 100% were female between the ages of 13 and 36 and were recorded as 25% Caucasian and 28% African American. The suspects were 78% male between the ages of 16 and 61 and were recorded as 44% Caucasian and 56% African American.
“It is common for traffickers to force their victims to commit crimes,” Hefner said. “For example, we see all the time that victims of sex trafficking are arrested for prostitution. It is important that we identify the victims.
The task force is organized into eight subcommittees: education, law enforcement, legal innovations, direct services to children, direct services to adults, health care, faith-based, and research. Each of these sub-committees works to employ a different facet of the community in response to human trafficking, depending on the working group website.
The co-chairs of the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force, Lauren Knapp and Brooke Burris, have been working together since 2018 in hopes of creating a strong task force.
“I like to think that a lot of our success is because we talk to survivors to help our decision-making and to subcommittees to make sure we hit the mark effectively,” Knapp said. “In criminal tactics and techniques, they change all the time. The downside is that we’re big and clumsy on this side, and we can’t pivot and scale. Thank you very much to our vendors for us having guided as a group to help the state and locally.”
The task force is working with the Training Project, which found it necessary to help adult survivors in the Lowcountry because there were no services for adult survivors of trafficking, according to the Training project website.
“The financial assistance, legal assistance, even emotional and community assistance provided by the training project gives victims both a sense of security to live their whole lives without fear, which is new for them, but also resources to stay away from these situations,” Hefner said. would have no choice but to return to the situations they left just to survive.”
The task force continues to build more connections by training law enforcement agencies and the public on how to identify human trafficking in the first place.
Their next meeting is scheduled for October 28.
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