Human trafficking threat real in Myrtle Beach area
Officials attend awareness event
By Claudia Lauer - email@example.com / Contact CLAUDIA LAUER at 626-0301.
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010
The Grand Strand has several qualities that make it susceptible to human trafficking, according to speakers at an event Monday to commemorate International Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
The event at the Myrtle Beach International Airport was hosted by the Eastern Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking and featured several members of law enforcement, as well as S.C. Rep. Nelson Hardwick. He plans to introduce a resolution this week recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Day and file legislation to strengthen laws against trafficking. .
"Human trafficking is the fastest growing global crime industry in the world. It generated $31 billion last year," said Kelly O'Neill-Bagwell, president of ECCHAT, which was formed in Conway in 2008. "An estimated 1 million people are trafficked each year across international borders. When you include those who are trafficked within national borders, that number can rise to up to four times that amount."
Trafficking, the holding and transport of a person against their will by use of fear or other coercion or control, is often tied to other crimes such as drug trade or prostitution. It can also be tied to the service industry or to agricultural work. About 80 percent of people who are trafficked are women and children, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.
O'Neill-Bagwell said she was looking at a map of instances of alleged trafficking and was struck by how few cases appeared in South Carolina. After talking to law enforcement officials, she said she found out that wasn't because it didn't happen here, but that no one was reporting them and victims weren't coming forward.
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