by: Greg Suskin Updated:
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Channel 9 was in Columbia Thursday as Attorney General Alan Wilson unveiled the state's new plan to target human trafficking.
"Everywhere I go, I talk about human trafficking because it's something that needs to be talked about," Wilson said.
He spoke flanked by more than 60 people who will help launch the plan including prosecutors, police officers, health officials, advocates, social workers and volunteers on a federal, state and local level.
Wilson said South Carolina was at the bottom of the barrel in recognizing the issue until the General Assembly passed a 2012 law requiring the task force that was revealed Thursday.
Human trafficking generally falls into two major areas -- women and often young children who are forced into the sex trade.
They are coerced, threatened or bribed into slavery and are often too afraid to tell anyone, even their own families. Sadly, many victims are young children, often deserted by their own parents.
"How can you not be passionate about this, when you're talking to a 5-year-old little girl who can't reconcile why mommy and daddy would do this to her," Wilson said.
Others are drawn into forced labor and made to work to pay back a debt, among other reasons.
Officials said traffickers prey on the vulnerable but neither the victims nor the traffickers themselves fall into stereotypes.
Wilson said they can be any age, race or income level.
The 58-page state plan contains detailed strategies on discovering how widespread trafficking is, protecting and supporting victims, investigating and prosecuting offenders and focusing on prevention.
It discusses creating a statewide database and a help-line for victims, pushing for better communication among law enforcement, targeting businesses that are used as fronts for trafficking and numerous other strategies.
Wilson didn't have any specific numbers Thursday on how widespread trafficking is throughout the state. He said the office is already beginning to gather that kind of data.
Members of a group called Zonta that advocates for women's rights were in attendance.
Judy Barnes sees human trafficking as today's version of domestic violence -- tragedy that can't remain hidden.
'We're so excited for this announcement," Barnes said. "It's not just women, it's little girls whose lives are being taken away from them."
Also, the FBI named the Charlotte area as one of the top 20 spots for human trafficking in the nation.
Wilson said his office in South Carolina already currently has several cases under investigation.
“We didn't wait for this plan to be released," he said. "We're coming for you traffickers, we're coming for you."
Wilson compared the far-reaching approach to human trafficking being unveiled to the D-Day invasion 70 years ago. He said he believes the impact will be great.
You can read the entire South Carolina human trafficking plan on the website for the South Carolina Attorney General here.
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