MYRTLE BEACH (WMBF) - South Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson is running for re-election in the June GOP primary. Wilson is speaking around South Carolina, raising awareness about the human trafficking epidemic.
Human trafficking is topic he believes has been a large platform of his administration the past seventeen years.
"When I ran for this job eight years ago I did not know that we had this problem. South Carolina used to have one of the worst trafficking statutes on the books; now we have one of the best because people have woken up. Our human trafficking task force has grown from 12 members to over 300 members," Wilson stated.
In 2017, Wilson said the Attorney General's office closed 59 cases of human trafficking in state court and there are more than 70 cases open right now.
"When you look at us as a region, South Carolina sits in between two of the top 20 trafficking hubs in the country, that being Atlanta and Charlotte, so it's a very prevalent crime that people don't think about when they are driving to and from work. They think of human trafficking happening abroad or another major country or metropolitan city, but it happens in rural and urban areas throughout South Carolina alike," stated Wilson.
Wilson shared these statistics while he spoke in front of the Myrtle Beach Rotary and other guest Rotarians Friday afternoon. He opened it up for Q and A and one woman brought up the question of what troubling signs should people look out for? Wilson said, "When you're seeing a sign of prostitution that is a crime, but it may be a symptom of something far more nefarious which would be trafficking. Not every prostitute is a person committing a crime, they are a victim of a crime, that's what we are trying to get people to change their view of how they see that type of activity."
Wilson also told the crowd of people assume a victim is a runaway on the street, but that's not always the case. "A lot of times trafficking victims come out of high school. I met a victim a few years ago who was trafficking for two years while she was living at home and she went to high school every day and was trafficking by her peers and her parents didn't see the signs," Wilson explained.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion a year industry affecting more than 42 million victims every year worldwide, Wilson said. Horry County ranks as one of the top five counties for trafficking in the state. Wilson added, "I am not trying to say it's only here, it is everywhere, anytime you have a tourist town you are going to have it, obviously we don't want tourists coming here with the intent of trafficking because a lot comes from out of town, but a lot happens organically in this community."
Greenville attorney William Herlong and State Representative Todd Atwater are running against Wilson for Attorney. Atwater spoke out while he was a guest on the Hot Talk 99.5 Morning Show Thursday morning. He said, "In Myrtle Beach there was a human trafficking bust about three months ago and there were about 25 people that were in that discovered in the trafficking. The US attorney was involved, the solicitor and your sheriff was involved - your attorney general was nowhere to be found. The person that was there that makes me want to run and run this office well was a six-year-old girl that was being trafficked."
Atwater went on to question the people in the current attorney general's office and said there is a lack of focus and guidance.
Wilson's response to his opponents; "I really have nothing to say to them. I work for the people of South Carolina, the office of the Attorney General doesn't belong to Alan Wilson, it belongs to the citizens of this state. I am just the trustee of this job. I don't worry about what other people are saying I worry about what the citizens are saying."