Money has become one of the biggest obstacles to those fighting human trafficking in South Carolina.
During a quarterly meeting of Attorney General Alan Wilson’s Human Trafficking Task Force, advocates voiced concern over the lack of money to build shelters for victims of human trafficking.
The state’s only shelter is a small one in Greenwood, said Shannon Piller, an investigator who runs Greenville County Sheriffs Office’s human trafficking task force. As a result, Piller said he often has to place survivors in out-of-state shelters or those within the state that are designated for domestic violence victims.
“The biggest thing with the shelter is not that we don’t have funding,” Piller said. “We need more (shelters) in the state.”
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Marie Sazehn, an assistant South Carolina Attorney General, said the state also needs a shelter that specifically caters to under aged victims of sex trafficking. Having specialized shelters allows victims to receive services they need, like job training or counseling, Sazehn said.
She added that there is also a need to create a central database that allows investigators and advocates to share information with each other. Piller said that kind of database has to be funded either through an agency or some kind of government organization.
“We’ve got task forces that are mandated, but they are unfunded task forces,” Piller said. “Ultimately, with not having the funding there it certainly hinders us from what we could probably be doing.”
Meanwhile, Sazehn said she’s still struggling to get law enforcement agencies who are willing to voluntarily pull cases of prostitution, sexual exploitation of a child and other similar crimes so that the task force can comb through them to collect data.
“We just still need agencies that are willing to work with us to pull those incident reports for the listed offenses that we’re looking to identify indicators of human trafficking from 2013 to 2015,” Sazehn said. “We’re not looking to do a shake of the finger. We’re looking to collect demographic information.”