Following last month’s recognition as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, United States Attorney Peter McCoy is urging the public to continue raising awareness about human trafficking and support efforts to fight modern-day slavery in South Carolina.
“Ending the horrendous crime of human trafficking will take an unwavering and unified commitment of law enforcement and the public,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “I call on the public to understand the signs, learn how and whom to report to, and stand firm with law enforcement to ensure justice is served for the victims of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking.”
Federal law defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under that age of 18 years old. Federal law defines labor trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
While victims of human trafficking come from every area, age, gender, ethnicity, education, and socio-economic background – U.S. Attorney McCoy warns that traffickers seek out people who are vulnerable to the crime.
“Those with substance abuse problems, those with caregivers who have substance abuse problems, runaways, those who experienced childhood abuse or neglect, those with disabilities, those with unstable living and financial situations, and victims of domestic violence unfortunately have a higher chance of falling victim to sex and labor trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy.
U.S. Attorney McCoy asks the public to be alert for signs of potential trafficking.
“It is common for a trafficker to lure a victim in with stories that are simply too good to be true,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “Look out for stories of an instant ‘everlasting love’ or a promise of an incredible job opportunity far away but lacking any specific details of the job. Such dreams of a brighter future could quickly turn into a nightmare that is often extremely difficult to get out of.”
Should one witness these signs or have knowledge of human trafficking, U.S. Attorney McCoy implores to immediately call 911.
“If you know a victim is being trafficking or have a gut feeling that something just doesn’t add up, contact law enforcement immediately,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “In addition to calling 911, I ask that you also report suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.”
U.S. Attorney McCoy encourages the public to fully educate themselves on human trafficking at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Trafficking in Persons website (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip/about/what-human-trafficking).
“As United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, I am unwavering in my commitment to rescue and support victims of human trafficking, while seeking the harshest punishments allowable by law for human traffickers,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “And our office is committed to continue ensuring fellow law enforcement agencies have the latest and best training on the methods of investigating and prosecuting federal human trafficking cases. But, let me be clear, the public’s support is a critical component to the success of law enforcement’s work to stop human trafficking in South Carolina.”