State House

South Carolina Attorney General Gives Human Trafficking Update

There’s good news … and bad news.

There’s good news/ bad news in the new report on human and labor trafficking in South Carolina released Monday.

First, the bad news: The number of cases reported to authorities rose in 2022.

Now the good news: The increase indicates law enforcement officers and citizens alike are doing a better job of spotting it, and victims/ survivors are stepping forward more frequently to report it.

Long called “a crime committed in plain sight,” human trafficking refers to the non-voluntary exploitation of a person in the sex industry or labor market. In other words, it’s modern-day slavery.

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Greenville, Charleston, Richland, Horry, and Spartanburg Counties reported the most cases in 2022. Statewide, there was a 458 percent increase in labor trafficking victims with a 44 percent increase in victims who identified as Latino. Overall, there was a 128 percent increase in victims’ use of the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work done by Task Force,” attorney general Alan Wilson said. “Its efforts to educate and equip people in how to combat human trafficking are making South Carolina a safer place to live. The work is not finished, but our defenses against this horrendous crime are getting stronger every day, and we’re committed to the fight.”

Wilson was joined at the S.C. State House in Columbia by an array of public leaders involved in combatting the problem. They included Kathryn Moorehead, director of South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force; S.C. first lady Peggy McMaster; S.C. State Law Enforcement (SLED) chief Mark Keel; state senator Katrina Shealy; along with state, local, and federal law enforcement; task force members; and partnering state organizations.

(Click to view)

Attorney general Alan Wilson speaks at a human trafficking press conference at the S.C. State House (S.C. Attorney General)

Underscoring the seriousness of the problem, just hours after the press conference SLED announced two people in Orangeburg County were arrested on human trafficking charges.

Alana Ann Westbury, 32, of Bowman was charged with trafficking a victim under 18 years old (first offense) and three counts of unlawfully placing a child at risk. John Richard Williams, 61, of Bowman, was charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old and trafficking a victim under 18 years old (first offense).

As with anyone accused of committing any crime, Westbury and Williams are considered innocent until proven guilty by the criminal justice system, or until such times as they may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges that may be filed against them. 

This is the tenth year the Human Trafficking Task Force has reported its findings. The entire report can be accessed on the Task Force’s website at humantrafficking.scag.gov. To report an incident or seek victim services, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. The Hotline is confidential and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast.

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