MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson visited the WMBF newsroom Tuesday afternoon to talk about his office's outlook for 2018.
One of his top goals is to help boost awareness of human trafficking in the Palmetto State.
Wilson said his office plans to release new data on human trafficking in South Carolina later this week, and he talked about why the state is a prime location for this kind of crime.
Wilson said Horry County is ranked in the top five counties in S.C. for human trafficking. He said it's happening in high-tourism areas and rural areas alike.
He believes one main reason for this is South Carolina's position in the country, right between Atlanta and Charlotte. According to Wilson, those two cities are major hubs for human trafficking. He added that Interstate 95's stretch through South Carolina also fuels this crime.
"The more resources we've been given by the state, the more human trafficking we are able to," Wilson said. "If you look back in the old days, when a person was arrested or prosecuted, they went down as a prostitute and an arrest as a defendant in a prostitution sting. But now, law enforcement is asking questions, peeling back those layers like an onion. They are finding out that the person they've arrested is not a defendant committing a crime; they are a victim of a crime. We are learning how to better prosecute and investigate these types of cases."
Wilson said most of the human trafficking cases his office deals with involve gang activity. He added it's not just about the sex trade though. These cases also include the labor trade, with migratory workers being trafficked.
Wilson said he will hold a press conference at the State House in Columbia about this issue on Friday.
Another focus of the attorney general's office is the opioid epidemic in South Carolina. Wilson has taken the battle to the top of the drug chain on to the manufacturers.
His office has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the maker of Oxycontin of deceptively misleading doctors into prescribing opioids and believing they are not as addictive as they really are.
He called this an advertising violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act.
"Opioids themselves are not bad. People who manufacture them are not bad. People who distribute and sell them are not bad, and doctors who prescribe them are not bad. But in every line of that chain, there are going to be people that abuse that process," Wilson said. "The state of South Carolina has got to be vigilant in rooting out those people who are abusing this system to gain a higher profit margin."
Wilson called this issue an epidemic that's happening not just in South Carolina, but across the country.
VC SUMMER PROJECT FAILURE
Wilson said he's also keeping a close eye on legislation that would reform how utilities are regulated in the Palmetto State in 2018.
He wants to fix the system that allowed the VC Summer Project in Fairfield County to fail and cost ratepayers billions of dollars.
He called the shutdown a "nuclear bomb," especially for those areas of coverage where ratepayers were being charged for a facility that ended up not being built.
Wilson wants to create an advocate position within his office that would go to the courts and Public Service Commission to work on behalf of the ratepayers.
"The way our system has been created is that often times the ratepayers get overlooked when it comes to the passage of rates and when rates are getting hiked up to build facilities that do not produce any energy, then that's not fair for the ratepayer," Wilson said. "It's an unlawful taking. I've told members of the General Assembly, including the leadership, that the Attorney General is well situated to represent the interest of ratepayers in South Carolina to protect their interests as it relates to utilities."
The full interview is available on the WMBF News app. To download it, click here.