COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Two Upstate counties are in the top five for reported human trafficking cases, according to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The attorney general’s office on Monday released the 2022 Human Trafficking report for South Carolina which details how many cases are reported to the national human trafficking hotline, the top counties in which those crimes are reported, and how the state is working to respond to human trafficking.

Wilson, who chairs the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force, said the state saw a roughly 34% increase in the number of victims reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), but a 128% increase in the use of the hotline itself.

According to the report, there were 124 human trafficking cases — including both sex and labor trafficking — reported across the state last year with 277 likely victims.

The data also highlighted a significant increase in the number of reported labor trafficking cases which is described by the NHTH as “a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

In 2022, there was a 450% increase in victims of labor trafficking from 24 in 2021 to 132 in 2022, 44% of whom identified themselves as Latinx.

“This is the first time since the data has been recorded that reports of labor trafficking victims were higher than sex trafficking victims,” Wilson said. “

A slight uptick of reported sex trafficking victims was also found in the data from 84 in 2021 to 117 in 2022, a roughly 2.5% increase.

Based on court data, 10 people were charged with human trafficking in state courts last year. Overall, 32 charges were closed in state courts and there are currently 34 human trafficking cases pending in S.C. state courts.

In addition, Wilson released the top five counties in which human trafficking cases were reported most in 2022, including one Lowcountry county:

  1. Greenville
  2. Charleston
  3. Richland
  4. Horry
  5. Spartanburg

Wilson noted that the state’s efforts to expand human trafficking awareness and education have likely contributed to the uptick in the number of reported cases and the county rankings do not necessarily reflect the amount of activity.

 Shauna Galloway-Williams, the CEO of the Julie Valentine Center, which offers 24-hour crisis intervention, says she was not surprised by the new report.  Galloway-Williams is all too familiar with the local cases.  

“Over the past year 2022 we have provided services to 15 identified sex trafficking victims and in fact just this past weekend we provided supportive services to another victim already in January of 2023,” said Galloway.

Galloway says runaway teens, in particular, are at significantly higher risk for trafficking.

Ellen Kennedy the Sexual Assault Coordinator for Prisma Health Upstate is leading an effort to train hospital workers to spot the signs.

“On average a human trafficking victim will present to the ER a minimum of 7 times before they make any disclosure. I think when people think of human trafficking it’s like what we see on TV, like “Taken” or a scary stranger snatching a buggy in the middle of Target. But really,  trafficking is going to be most perpetuated but someone you know and trust,” stated Kennedy.

You can report an incident or seek victim services by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. AG Wilson’s office said the hotline is confidential and open 24/7.